Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Half a Year in Casa Meg (Give or Take)

I've been meaning to do this post for a while now--a then and now post--but life has been busy and blogging light. Still, I've been collecting pictures of Casa Meg and planning a post to showcase just how far this little place has come in the last seven months.

When I tell people I bought a home that "needed some love," they smile as though they think I'm exaggerating. How cute. If the subject continues, I tell them of the guinea pig poo found in random corners, the holes in parts of the carpet, the stove that had years of food cooked onto it.

Part of me actually relishes their grossed-out expressions.

Anyway, the place is better now--cleaner, neater, cuter. I'm quite proud of what I've done.

The Living Room

To be fair, when the inspection pictures were taken, the tenants were in the midst of packing to move out. Still, the way this place is set up, their entertainment center wouldn't fit on the wall where the TV plug-in is located, so they put it on what is now my couch wall, and hid the fireplace with a massive sofa that was too big for the room.

These days, things are different. I still want a bigger TV and an actual TV stand, not a night stand that should be in the bedroom. That will come in time, but for now, the set-up is functional. The cat tree is here to stay, too--the boys love it, and bless their fuzzy little buns, they use it as a scratching post, too, instead of my sofa.

I'm very proud of how my wall gallery turned out, and I love my paint -- it's white, but with the barest touch of grey, which sets off my black accents and gray sofa perfectly.

Part of having cats means having toys to stimulate their need to hunt and play. When I clean I throw all the toys into the basket, then watch with amusement as, through the week, toys come out of the basket and wind up all over the condo. Sometimes if a toy has been in the basket a while, it feels "new" to them when it comes out again.

This is my spot on the sofa--I shove the throw pillows over (I'm eventually going to find the time to get some fabric at JoAnn to cover them to better go with my scheme) and leave about six inches between my hip and the arm for any cats that might wander along.

Mom gave me the mirror--she'd found it at a flea market and painted it red. Dad helped me paint it with the teal that is used on my kitchen/dining accent walls, and it looks fantastic over the fireplace.

The Dining Area

The dining area and the living room are part of one larger great room, and I've kept them open to each other because I like the space and actually use it to work out. I don't take a lot of pictures of it because I use the dining table for my laptop 98% of the time, and usually have my purse hanging from one of the chairs, my school stuff piled on the table, etc. I also actually eat at the table when I'm having a meal at home.

The last time I came to the condo before signing was the first time I actually saw the dining area.

Of course, now that Popcorn and Archie have moved in, they need a food station. This little corner is the easiest place, where I won't step on it or kick it (because believe me, I would). The little sign is from Rome, and says, "Attenti al Gatto." The water dish says "Tuna Breath." 

After Christmas, I finally replaced the taped-up parchment paper with blinds. So much nicer.

I hesitated to take a picture as the dining room is right now, but what the hell, this is pretty much what it always looks like. My computer is going, my purse and a couple of reusable shopping bags are hanging on the chair. My phone is on the table, as is my planner and a few important papers. The boxes are stuff for charity that will be gone in a day or two. Otherwise, the room is actually very neat. It's just lived-in.

P.S. I adore my little wall sconces. I was on the lookout for sconces to hang by the hutch when I found this pair at an antique store in Folsom. I had to have them.

The Kitchen

Yes, the kitchen. It was disgusting.

By the time the old stove was removed (the oven didn't work and there's no way I wanted to clean that heap), I was no longer shocked by anything--so when I saw what was under the oven, I just laughed and laughed and laughed.

Ms. Clean Freak took over things, and the counter stays this clean. Make a big mess while cooking? Clean it immediately.

The stove was the first home appliance I ever bought, and it's so beautiful and...clean. And yes, I actually use it a lot.

I hate clutter, so keeping my limited counter space clear is a big deal. Still, one needs a fruit bowl and a Snoopy cookie jar.

The Mistress Bedroom

This was another case of too much crap in a room. I personally prefer to keep my TV separate from my bedroom, and want my bedroom to be simple and easy to relax in.

I love my bedroom set. Mom and Dad used it for about a year before deciding they wanted a king-sized bed, so I got a gorgeous set when I moved to Antioch. There was some question of how my bright green bedding would tie in with the teal walls (those two walls are teal, the other two are the white-gray), but I love it. At the foot of my bed is Dad's old foot locker. Above the bed are three reproductions of vintage airline posters. I bought them when I was teaching at the Large Suburban High School and getting ready for our big "Come Fly With Me" concert. I adore the style of them, and found inexpensive poster frames to display them in (as well as my England map).

 Not pictured--my day and night pill boxes, or my glasses case.

I hated the old closet doors with the fire of a thousand suns. They were cheap particle board, and huge. I wasn't quite sure how I'd replace them, and what I could possibly do to make it look better, but figured curtains wouldn't be bad. In my college dorm, I hung a shower curtain over my closet to hide my clothes because I couldn't stand staring at it while trying to fall asleep.

I love my closet curtains so much, I have no plans to replace them.

The top of my dresser, which is nearly as tall as I am. I recently made two simple "cubist" style oil pastel drawings with my 6th graders, and I'm going to frame them and hang them over the dresser.

The Mistress Bathroom

I've had the teal and seashell theme going on for over ten years now, and I love how my teal paint sets off the white of the shower--which was brown when I took possession. Your eyes are not deceiving you.

I also immediately replaced the toilet seat because hello, duct tape?!

Of course, I also said goodbye to the peeling linoleum in favor of my lovely vinyl flooring.

Have I mentioned how white the shower is now? That's hours of labor. I not only scrubbed until my arms were ready to fall off, I removed caulk. Do you know how labor-intensive removing caulk is? And then I re-caulked it all while not knowing what the hell I was doing. It was while using the razor to remove the old caulk that I discovered it was also handy for removing years and years of hard water build-up that Lime Away wouldn't even touch, and that's when I was finally able to get the worst stains out.

I impress the hell out of myself sometimes.

The Office

While I call it my "office," I keep my laptop in the dining room, because I like being in this part of my condo, for the most part. I do use the office, however, as I play the piano daily, and use the table in there for crafting. The printer is in there, too.

You'd hardly guess it was once home to a chinchilla.

Kristen showed me a few one-bedroom condos, but in the end, we both knew that two bedrooms was necessary. The second bedroom is home to my piano, my file cabinet, printer, craft table and craft supplies, all of my books, my Snoopy collection (what's left of it--I've downsized), my ballet bar, and one litter box. Oh, and a bean bag chair.

I created extra space by making the closet part of the room.

The Guest Bathroom

It's funny, having two bathrooms. I don't really need a second, but it is nice to have, because it's always clean for company (though I do use the toilet depending on where in the place I'm hanging out when I need to pee), and I've stowed a second litter box in the bathtub in there.

The cheerful shower curtain hides the horrors within. That's the boys' favorite litter box (it's uncovered).

I found some cute cheap fabric and asked Mom to make me some bathroom curtains. She got the idea to crochet little squares for the top, and it turned out great. She's making a little valance for the top.

The pictures are two little prints I bought on my travels--a cat in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, and a watercolor of the Inner Harbour in Victoria, British Columbia.

Other Bits & Pieces

I have a laundry closet, rather than a laundry room, in the small hallway outside of the office and second bath.

Over my winter break from school, my friend Matt helped me put the doors back up, which I spray-painted gray. I did a terrible job and will, at some point, sand them down a bit and paint them again, but for now, it'll do.

They still look better than all of this stuff just hanging out. And they keep the cats out. For some reason, the boys are fascinated by the washing machine and I'm just waiting for one or both to try to climb behind both machines and get stuck.

Across from the laundry closet is one small wall that has about four different devices on it--a carbon monoxide detector, a smoke detector, and other stuff. It's hard to make that wall pretty, but hey, I tried.

It was the week of Thanksgiving that I started to finally feel at home in Casa Meg. It's hard to explain, but before that it was just a place to park. Spending a week on the couch, reading, made me appreciate it more. Adding The Boyz in December and having my first Christmas there did even more to make it my home, and now I feel like it's truly mine. I've put a lot of work (and money) into this place, and there's still more I'd like to do. For now, though, everything (knock on wood) is working--though the dishwasher will be replaced by the end of 2017, for sure--so my focus is more on decorating and cosmetic improvements.

When I first saw the listing for this unit, I loved the possibilities of the floor plan--and the pictures were taken before the last tenants moved in. Seeing it in person was eye-opening, but I still saw a diamond in the rough and knew I could make something of it.

And I have! I'm proud of how far it's come, and how much cleaner it is (though with one long-haired woman and two cats it can get quite hairy quite fast, so my Swiffer gets a lot of action). It turns out I can do this home-owner thing quite well.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Simple Pleasures

A cup of tea on Sunday morning

                Waking up to cat cuddles

Clean bed linens

                                    Sleeping in

Singing along

                  Receiving a text from a friend

        Finishing a To Do List

                                        A satisfying nap

           Not being in a rush

                                                  A favorite mug

                        A good book

     Time to read

                                      Having plans

Having no plans

                                           A clean home

                  Lazy rainy days

    The opening chords to a favorite song

                               Fun socks

            Cozy pajamas 

                                        A hot shower

Home-cooked meals

Saturday, January 28, 2017

How to Be a Condo Owner, Part Four: Don't Fear the Oven

When I took possession of Casa Meg, it was with cash in hand from closing to buy a new oven range.

Just in case you have forgotten how disgusting the stove was--I have not--here is a photo reminder:

And this wasn't even why I demanded a new oven out of the deal--the oven on that piece of filth didn't work.

With the old one disconnected and hauled off by The Junk Kings, I bought my new one at Sears, where they are always reliable with household appliances. It's not very fancy, just your standard Kenmore with gas stove. But when it went in, the difference was astounding. No more filthy stove staring at me, and finally I could cook.

Except for one small, annoying detail--the smoke detector.

For a nine hundred square-foot home, I have a lot of smoke detectors. I know there are laws and regulations, so I don't complain. Still, it seems excessive to have that one on the ceiling about six feet away from the oven when there's another one just on the other side of the bedroom door. And another one about six feet away in the living room. And one about fifteen feet from the living room one in the hallway...you get the picture.

The kitchen one is particularly temperamental.The first time I turned my new oven on, it went wild from the chemical smell that happens any time you use a brand-new oven for the first time. I ran around opening windows and running fans and waving a dishtowel over my head, and it just kept going off.

In September, I had my parents over for dinner. They offered to bring a take-and-bake pizza, so before they arrived, I heated the oven...which promptly set off that damned smoke detector again. After that, I was simply afraid to use my brand-new oven because no one likes loud, high-pitched screeching while they're trying to cook dinner. So I stopped using it.

I have a stove and a microwave, and I eat a lot of salad.

But come on. I like to be able to bake, too.

It was Dad who had the idea to use a food storage cover. Bless Zip-loc for creating those little dish covers that look like shower caps. Mom gave me a small one from her store and I brought it home several weeks ago. Today, I finally gave it a go and whaddayaknow, I heated my oven to 400 degrees and have had a quiche in there for half an hour now with not a peep from my smoke detector.

I've missed quiche.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I Can...Chopin

I've been playing the piano for well over twenty years...and while I'm hardly a concert pianist (my hands are tiny), and I can't accompany to save my life, I can play some fairly advanced-intermediate tunes and my knowledge of theory isn't too bad. I know all my major and minor scales, etc. etc.

I remember as a child being extremely excited when I finally learned my first Beethoven piece (the way-easy "Ode to Joy"), and later, being even more excited to learn a sweet little Beethoven sonatina and eventually, Für Elise.

My piano lessons stopped when I left for college, and while I played for fun and as a music teacher over the next several years, I focused more on clarinet and singing. I tested out of the two-semester piano requirement in my major program.

Fast-forward to a year ago, when I decided I ought to play my piano more. Even just ten minutes a day. After all, I've had this particular instrument--an electric piano--since high school and it has now lived in Chico, Folsom, Port Ludlow (WA), Lincoln, Antioch, Stockton, Lincoln again, and Antelope. If I'm going to haul it everywhere I move, I might as well use it.

So I fulfilled a long-standing goal of learning the theme song to "Hill Street Blues," and re-learned the lesser-known bits of Für Elise. I played some favorite Clementi sonatinas and practiced my scales. I learned more chords and sang Keane songs.

A week or so ago, in my daily practice, I decided it was time to learn a new piece. I flipped through my ancient book of classical pieces and landed on Chopin's Minute Waltz.

I had never played Chopin.

Frederic Chopin was known for writing lush, beautiful--difficult--piano pieces. Friends at Chico who majored in piano struggled with him. I stared at this short waltz for a moment. Four flats (not too terrible). A lot of left-hand leaping around. Eh, I can manage.

Why shouldn't Chopin be accessible to me?

So I started, slowly. Very slowly. It did not in any way resemble the typical ONE-two-three of a proper waltz, but I was putting mostly right notes together.

Fast-forward a week, and I'm hearing improvement. When I play the hands separately, I can get that waltz time. Together, they still hesitate a bit. The leaping left hand part doesn't scare me anymore, though, and the right hand knows exactly where to go.

With ten to fifteen minutes a day after a full day of teaching, time at the gym, and scooping litter boxes, I'm hardly on my way to being a concert pianist...but there is so much joy in making music that is just for me, and so much satisfaction in taking something difficult and slowly putting it together.

Monday, January 16, 2017

One Month With The Boys

Watching Mom raise a bonded pair of cats helped me understand that cats really do enjoy having company--and when I added Harley to my own home, I noticed immediately that Millie thrived on having company during my long work days. When it came time to adopt again this year, I was determined from the get-go to bring home a pair.

Best decision ever.

Archie and Popcorn have been with me for a month now, but they've been together since they were in their mother's womb. Dumped together in a Rubbermaid bin, fostered together while sick with upper respiratory issues, and adopted together into their first home, they've never been apart. When they came back to AFC several weeks ago, there was no way Marian would have separated them.

Enter Meg.

In the month I've had them, we've bonded beautifully. I absolutely adore my boys (usually said out loud with an over-emphasis on the "oi" part). They are both quick to cuddle, quick to purr, and eager for any attention I can give them, but at the same time, they are content to be with each other when I'm away, or busy doing things around the house. They mostly sleep on my bed with me at night, though sometimes one or both will move over to the window ledge I put up to watch the goings-on outside.

There are lots of goings-on, too. Birds, squirrels, passing traffic. They seem to be used to the various traffic sounds and the sounds from the nearby fire station.

Archie is my investigator-in-chief, always wanting to know what I'm up to and what I'm into, and what's in there? While both boys are playful, Archie definitely takes it further and is The Cat Most Likely to Pounce on Mom's Feet in Bed. Actually, I don't think Popcorn has ever pounced on my feet in bed. He is also about 75% more likely to start a wrestling match than Popcorn is. He seems fond of butt-biting, and of tackling Popcorn from above while chomping on his neck. Popcorn takes it in stride and gives as good as he gets.

Archie loves attention and is glad to cuddle, but his attention span can be short and if I shift my weight around or move too much, he's off to sleep alone--but never too far away. If I'm on the sofa in my usual spot, he'll be at the opposite end on a the soft throw blanket, napping away and just waiting for me to walk by, lean down, and kiss his soft little head.

Then there's Popcorn, my cuddle-bug who can happily sit on me or pressed up against me for hours. In "my" spot on the sofa, I've given up about six inches of space between me and the arm, so Popcorn can squeeze in there (and at 12 pounds, it's a squeeze) and nap for hours with his head on my lap. If I get up to refill my tea or go to the bathroom, it wakes him up, but he doesn't go anywhere. I can come back, sit down, lift him while I get back into place, and he doesn't bat an eyelash. He just re-adjusts himself and goes right back to napping, purring to let me know he's happy.

They both love their food, especially Tuna Time, which is starting to sink in with them. They're more likely to respond to the sound of a can popping open than the words "tuna time," but they do seem to understand my tone and they come running to the kitchen. There, the both stretch their bodies out, front feet extended and braced against the cabinets, trying to reach the counter without actually jumping up there as I serve up their food. I feed them on one plastic plate, and they happily share with no growling.

This weekend, we went to Grandma and Grandpa's house. I'll be babysitting Mom's Bella in a few weeks, so Mom and I wanted everyone to meet and get the lay of the land (short edition: Bella is Boss). The boys didn't love getting put in their carriers--I got an accidental claw to the face from Archie and had to lower him butt-first into his box. Popcorn quietly walked into his with a resigned sigh. All three cats were very curious about each other--we mostly kept them separated but there was some supervised time where everyone had free run of the house. Bella did a lot of growling and posturing, and the boys mostly just looked at her like, "What?" Overall, however, the visit was a success, and both boys were happy to accept attention from my parents, happy to use Bella's scratching post, and very well-mannered while they were there.

I post about the boys constantly on Facebook, and my Instagram has been taken over by pictures of two gorgeous Orange Creamcicles. They just give me so many cute moments, whether they're napping or playing. And they make me happy. Every time I arrive home from work, as I walk from my car to the front door, my face lights up as I recall anew that two sweet faces will be peering up at me when I open the front door, always happy to see me. I've taken to throwing all of my stuff on the floor and just spending my first few minutes at home sitting, scratching ears, talking nonsense, and listening to their rumbling purrs as they rub against my legs and tell me in their own language that they're happy I'm home.

And so it goes. Where a month ago this place was just becoming home, now it truly is. It is filled with cat hair and sometimes I can't escape the smell of a fresh "job" in the litter box (though I am proud to say that daily scooping means this place does NOT smell like a litter box 24/7), but it is also filled with a lot of joy. There are cat toys scattered about and it makes me smile to see them, knowing my boys are secure and happy in their forever home. Getting young adult cats was a great move for me, and having a bonded pair is the sweetest part of all.

After doing a big clean of the rest of the place, I came into my
bedroom to find two passed-out fuzzbutts in my bed. 

This was taken during Winter Break, during a very long lie-in
where none of us was in any particular hurry to get up.