Month: January 2014

New Furniture and Old Cats

The old living room furniture. It looks so nice here when it was new, but now it's on it's way out.
The old living room furniture. It looks so nice here, but now it’s on it’s way out.

I’m not a person who seeks to change my environment very often. A friend of ours came to visit a few months ago and said stepping into my house was like stepping back in time. We all laughed, but he’s right. I just don’t think about stuff like my furniture or my curtains very often. I’m more inclined to think about whether the technology is up-to-date rather than whether the sofa is showing its age. Since my husband doesn’t care about that stuff either, things stay the same.

That said, we bought new furniture this week. We used to have this cat, a very old cat, that we had for eighteen years. He liked to sharpen his claws on the furniture. I liked to complain about him and call him a bastard. This went on for many years. He was a jerk, but he was our jerk. I used to say that when the cat died, I was going to replace the furniture. Well, the cat died three years ago, so it was time. I knew it was time when my husband said the sofa cushions needed replacing because they weren’t supportive enough for his pre-bedtime nap. Unsupportive cushions cannot be tolerated.

Spurred into action, I went looking for furniture, but there were problems with that. I hate buying stuff like furniture. There are too many choices and all I know is that I never want to buy it again, so it needs to be high quality, which means it’s going to cost money that I’m not going to want to spend. It’s a process, and not a fun one.

I approached buying furniture like buying a car. I decided in general what I wanted and then went to places that had it. I researched leather. I researched fabric. I researched manufacturers. I talked to sales people. I didn’t buy anything. I talked to more sales people and still didn’t buy anything. I talked to my sister. I talked to my cousin. I talked to my cousin’s boyfriend. I talked to my best friend. I told my husband what it would cost. I still didn’t buy anything.

Finally, last week, with Kristin in tow for moral support and her superior eye, I went into Hamilton Leather and Sofa Gallery and purchased two chairs and a sofa. I think I made good choices, all American made, and all respected makers. Kristin was there to decide colors and patterns. I only know what I like and what I don’t. I don’t know what goes well together or how to decide among hundreds of quality choices which I should choose. Kristin is good with those kinds of questions and she knows me well enough not to overwhelm me with options. I’m certain I couldn’t have done it without her. Kerry Nobles, my sales person, made it all as simple and easy as possible. For those of you feeling nostalgic for the good old days at my house, you might want to stop by in the next week, because the new chairs come in the first week of February.

Saturday Volunteering


This morning I volunteered at the Columbia Baptist Church’s Food Bank in Falls Church. The food bank serves an average of 200 families a week. I went there to meet with some Kiwanis who were also volunteering. Oddly, no actual Kiwanis showed up, however three of us Kiwanis-wannabees did. A regular volunteer named Mercedes was assigned to train us. Mercedes is a joyful ball of energy and knowledge. Despite a recent car accident and having moved this week, she flowed through the facility with remarkable speed. We had trouble keeping up with her.

Each family receives a standard two bags of groceries which include rice, pasta, tomato sauce, tuna, peanut butter, and canned vegetables. In addition to the standard bags, clients are asked if they are looking for anything special and asked if they want any of the fresh items that are available that week. Donations vary, so it’s first come, first served. This week the pantry had fresh cabbage, onions, sweet potatoes and apples. Everything but the cabbage ran out before everyone was served. In addition to the food, each client is asked if they want a prayer. Everyone we served today wanted the prayer, and I don’t blame them. I’m not particularly religious, but Mercedes can do some serious praying.

I was struck by how organized the whole program is. Betsy, the director, does an excellent job coordinating the entire enterprise. There was real thought put into everything from shelving to bagging. Staples are pre-packed to save time. Special items are picked up and bagged by volunteers as they are requested. There is a special shelf for homeless-friendly food, i.e. items that don’t have to be cooked and can be opened with a pull tab not a can opener. All items are double bagged, because many of the clients walk and have to carry bags a ways back home.

All in all, I had a very good morning, and I was happy to work with such an important organization in this community. For anyone local that’s interested in donating to the Columbia Baptist Food Pantry, here is a list of their top ten needed items:

  • Chunky/Hearty Soup
  • Cereal
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Condensed Soup
  • Peanut Butter
  • Pasta
  • Canned Pasta (e.g., Chef Boyardee)
  • Bagged Rice
  • Plastic Grocery Bags
  • Based on what I saw today, I would add cooking oil and baby formula to that list. And of course, they are always looking for Saturday morning volunteers. You can find out all about the program here.

    Embracing Evernote


    I’ve rarely found a tool as useful as I’ve recently found Evernote to be. I downloaded it a long time ago, but couldn’t seem to use it effectively, so I abandoned it. Then I read this article on LifeHacker and went back to it. I now have individual notebooks set up for all my works-in-progress. I have a notebook for my work with Game Industry News, and I have a personal notebook for things like the name and style of the sofa I want to buy. I have Evernote on my laptop, my iPhone, and my iPad. It syncs easily on all three, so I have access to my notes wherever I am. I can also make notes from anywhere and Evernote records where I was when I wrote the note. For someone like me, with a memory like a sieve, this is invaluable. So, if you’re like me and have a lot of irons in various and sundry fires, check out Evernote. It’s gone from lingering on my phone to being part of my daily existence.

    Organizational Ninny

    I’m an organizer. I like things tidy and catalogued. I also love NFL football, so this weekend, during the playoff games I set about doing some housekeeping type organizing of junk drawers and whatnot and I also tidied up my Goodreads account. I listed all the books I’d been hoarding on my Kindle on my To-Read list. I’m really glad I did that, because it reminded me of all the books I’d been collecting on there that I haven’t read yet. So now I’m on a moratorium for book buying until I’ve caught up with what I’ve already purchased. My goal this year is to read twenty books. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’m also writing a book and reading and writing aren’t always as compatible as you might think. I read a lot of non-fiction when I’m writing fiction, which is great, I love non-fiction, but I read it much slower than I do fiction, so we’ll see if I can make my twenty this year. Meanwhile, my work in progress is going well. I’m hoping to have all major revisions done before February 12th when I will leave for Maine for a week. In Maine, I plan to rewrite the ending while hanging out at my friend Michele’s house and keeping the fire in the wood stove going all day. This has been a successful plan in the past, and I’m so grateful that she lets me do this every year.

    A Question of Reading Habits

    I’m curious about reading habits. Personally, I have several books that I’m currently reading and one that I’m listening to in the car. I’ve currently got more books going than I typically read. Usually, I’ve got five going, but at the moment I have seven. Two of them are non-fiction, which is typical and the rest are fiction. In perhaps a bad move, I’m listening to The Ark by Boyd Morrison in the car while reading Medusa by Clive Cussler. I don’t generally read two action/adventure novels at the same time for obvious reasons, but I didn’t think it would be a problem since I was listening to one and reading the other, but I have to reorient myself every time, so I’ll probably set aside Medusa until I’m done with The Ark. While I have several books going, I do play favorites and I have a tendency to string some books out for a very long time. I’ve been reading The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson since 2011. It’s written in an old school telling style, but it’s so charming that I pull it out and savor it on occasion like a fine wine. I’m also reading A Fatal Thaw by Dana Stabenow It’s the second book in her Kate Shugak mystery series, which I started out of order and I’m now going back and filling in what I’ve missed. Anything by Dana Stabenow gets more of my attention than most other books, so I have a tendency to blow through those pretty quick. Somehow, I missed out on reading the Oz books as a child and I’ve never seen the entire movie of the Wizard of Oz, so I’ve been reading through those in a collection on my Kindle. Reading them makes me want to read a biography of  L. Frank Baum though, because wow, what was going on with that guy? 

    So here’s my question: what are your reading habits?