Paint is Awesome

S on SnowdoniaMost of the walls in our new house are renter beige, since we’re renters. The third floor, where the teacher lives, is bright lavender, which is pretty awesome. But we had permission from our landlords to paint, so we decided to do it.

We aren’t painting every room. The living room is bright enough with the purple doors and grass green rug (I guess we should give a little tour of the house one of these days, but it will have to wait until after the paint). I don’t think it’s worth the work to paint the bathrooms or the hallways or the mudroom, and K and the Artist don’t want to paint their bedroom because it’s too big. So we’re painting the dining room, the kitchen, the Architect’s and my bedroom, and K and the Artist’s insanely awesome bathroom.

The first room to get a new paint job was the dining room. It had a chair rail, so to save ourselves some work, we decided to just paint the wall under the chair rail and leave the top. That would also make it a nicer transition to the hallway since there isn’t a doorway. Here are a couple of shots of the dining room before paint. 

The first one shows the china cabinet into the hallway up the stairs. You can see our giant purple doors in the living room through the hallway.

dining room before 2

The second picture shows our library. The dining room had this little nook that I can only assume was supposed to house the china cabinet, but it fit our big awesome new bookcases so well that we had to go with it being a cozy library nook. The Architect’s office recently moved, and their new space didn’t need these, so he brought them home with him. They’re huge! They’re eight feet tall! (Good thing our house doesn’t have low ceilings).

dining room before library

So we bought some red paint and got our paint on. And it looks so good now! Like a room that someone put some thought into rather than a renter space with some furniture thrown in. (You’ll have to forgive the haziness with the light in some of these. It was raining out, so I had to turn on the chandelier even though it was too bright). 

The china cabinet view again:

dining room painted 4The library:

library

The window with the Ti Amos in view:

dining room painted 2

And finally, the wall with the awesome art we commissioned from Kyle Fisher:

dining room painted 3Oh, and I should definitely point out the Architect’s tablescape. He’s famous for his tablescapes. A few new friends of ours are moving onto a boat, so they are getting rid of some of their belongings, including this Aalto vase that they gave to us. The Architect has a sense of humor though, so he put a silicone chicken pot holder eating a sprig in it. I love him. He’s awesome.

dining room after vase

The room is so bright and cheery now. Paint is such a good thing for making a space seem like yours.

On Audiobooks, or how I learned to let books immerse themselves in my life

K on tree

When S and I were small children, we were not only very loud, but we were also very studious. We loved reading, and our parents almost couldn’t get books out of our hands. We learned to read very young, and always wanted to read more. The constant fight at night before bed was “just one more paragraph!”

And then high school and college happened. You get to high school and you’re supposed to read all these books and suddenly reading is a chore. You can’t get absorbed in a story line, because you have to put that book down after a few chapters to read history or a science textbook. Reading becomes a chore, and you can’t get absorbed or interested in any one idea because so many so different ideas are floating around your head. And you’re being told you have to, so it’s not a joy anymore.

I think that happens to a lot of people, and it’s really a shame for something so wonderful to be trained out of people that way. But luckily, I got out of college!

As a side note, I love Goodreads. It’s a website that lets you track the books you read with the dates you read them and your reviews. It’s totally helpful in organizing my to-read book list, and then you get fun stats about your reading history.

So, back when I was a senior in college, I had to read Don Quixote for a Spanish class I was taking. Trouble was, I also had to spend the same time driving down to the city we were moving to after college to look at apartments. It was a 4 hour trip each way, and I had to go there and back. A friend of mine happened to have a copy of Don Quixote as an audiobook, so I borrowed it to listen to in the car. It wasn’t ideal because I couldn’t take notes in the margins to help with my future paper, but at least I could get through part of the text.

I ended up getting the apartment and not finishing the book. And I actually didn’t finish the book at all before I graduated college, but c’est la vie. There’s a lot of books I didn’t read in college that I should have. Too many books, not enough time, and they were too much like a chore.

So, after graduating college, the Artist and I were still in a long distance relationship and had to drive back and forth 3 hours each way every weekend. And the radio got REALLY boring. So, remembering my Don Quixote, I got a copy for myself and started listening to it on my trips. It was about a 40 hour audiobook, so it lasted me for a good 3 and a half months of trips. And I thought it was awesome.

Then I learned about Audible, and my life changed. (No, this is not a paid ad, I promise). Audible is part of Amazon, and you use it to download audiobooks. I got a second-hand iPod from the Artist and started downloading audiobooks onto it. And what was even better, I started listening to them more often because I would get engrossed in the stories again. I would listen on my way to and from work, while I was knitting, during my lunch breaks, and while I was driving to visit the Artist. Now I have a smartphone and use that to listen, but it works the same.

Let me show you what it has done to my reading proliferation. The below chart are my stats from Goodreads since 2009. As you can see, I didn’t get through very many books in 2010. In 2011 I started with Don Quixote, and at the very end of 2012 I discovered audible. Look what happened to 2013. I mean, seriously.

So many books!

So what do I like so much about audiobooks? I like that you can “read” them at times you can’t read a real book, or even an e-reader. You can “read” them in the car, or while you’re cleaning the house, or while you’re walking down the street, so you can get through stories much quicker without feeling like you aren’t being productive.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love to curl up with a good book, but that’s a luxury. And there are too many books in the world to treat them all like a luxury. I’m reminded of a quote that one of my college professors had on her door. It was in Spanish, but translated to “It’s impossible to read all of the books in the world, but you must try.” There is too much knowledge and beauty in books to allow them to be relegated to a luxury for a day when all your ducks are in a row and you can sit to immerse yourself. Save the best books for a cozy day, and listen to the rest of them. Let them intertwine themselves with your life so you can’t walk by a place without remembering the story you learned while walking by there the last time. Let the books touch every part of your life and all the places you go.

My Weird and Dorky Book Chart

S on SnowdoniaI don’t have a type-A personality even a little bit.

But, there is this one thing that I’m weirdly particular about.

It’s my bookshelves. And my book chart.

I like to read, but, as any good bibliophile knows, the books just pile up and you can’t possibly read as fast as you acquire good books.

Probably the dorkiest thing I’ve ever done is make my book chart. Over the years, I’d acquired all these books in a variety of subject matters. There are the books from my college classes I was too busy to read at the time. The books that were given to me by one person or another. My collection of books about religion. K’s collection of books about the ancient Maya. Interesting-looking nonfiction books picked up at yard sales here and there. It got to be too much. There were books I was dying to read and books I knew I wanted to read eventually, but kept putting off for easier ones. Enter the book chart.

The Chart of DorkinessI made a list in excel of all the books I owned that I hadn’t read yet, but wanted to.  I had a column of titles. I had a column of authors. I had a column of how many pages the actual book is because I once took a big, fat Ayn Rand novel on a trip, only to end up with nothing to read on the long ride home because it was actually a novella with her entire manuscript with her handwritten notes on it printed in the back. Presumably meant for people who don’t find her as repugnant as I do. (Beeteedubs, can we take a second and talk about how much I hate her? What kind of person actually says that altruism is bad? Ugh. All the people these days who practically worship her completely confound me.)

I went to random.org, and got a randomized sequence of the number of books I had (300ish), reorganized my list according to that sequence, and began reading the books in that order. I printed it out, and every time I finish a book, I cross it off and write the date. I also have an account at goodreads.com to write reviews of them. Any new books get added to the end. I first did this almost exactly three years ago, and I finished a page and a half on my chart. But, the new books got too long and too focused on the couple of subjects my interest in books seems to be narrowing on, so I re-randomized. Because I am weird enough to want a properly randomized books-to-read list.

Despite it’s eccentricity, I really like this system. It keeps me from reading all the way through the books that sound the most interesting by their covers and then ending up with shelves full of books I’m avoiding. I also think that reading a lot of books about the same subject in order, which would be my natural tendency, can feel redundant, whereas reading the same books with other things in between can yield surprising insights into both subjects.

The LibraryAnd then there are the bookshelves. It’s both K and me who do it, and both The Artist and The Architect make fun of us for it. That picture above is of our awesome library/reading corner/guest bedroom in the living room. Before I get into the book organization scheme, I thought I’d make an aside about all the cool stuff you can see in our library. On the top left is one of the Architect’s models of a ski loft he designed in school. The small round art was painted by the Architect’s best friend. The Moroccan lantern is one of K’s favorite things. SAM_1713The little white table I like to call the Marshmallow Lilypad after my favorite TV couple, since it is actually a porcelain stool made out of lilypad shapes that looks like a marshmallow. The Architect made the Don Quixote by cutting out the white paper and putting it on a black background. And finally, the Architect ALSO made the Dulcimer for me when we were in high school. Have I mentioned that I have an extremely talented husband?

Finished booksThese days, K and I are trying to limit ourselves to just these two bookshelves. The first is all the books we’ve read before and want to keep around. Our all-time favorites like The Universe StoryThe Little PrinceLooking for Alaska, and American Gods. That shelf is organized by height and spine color. Because it’s pretty.

The other shelf is organized in a way that is more complicated, and is based on our book charts. K has a list, too, but she’s reading her books in alphabetical order to randomize instead of peculiarly using a random number generator like I do. The top shelf is the books on my to-read list, but not hers. Either she’s already read them, or isn’t interested. The second and part of the third shelves are the books still on both of our to-read lists. And the bottom 2.5 shelves are the books on K’s to-read list, but not mine. Bookshelf with notesIt’s much bigger because she’s in grad school and has so many books about the Maya. Each section is shelved in alphabetical order by title to make finding books easier.

The Artist and the Architect make fun of us because of how many times we took all of the  books off the shelves and reorganized to get to this system that works for us. Originally, I wanted to have my books on the shelf in the randomized order, but there was no way to make sense of it with the middle section of shared to-read books. So we ended up with this silly three times alphabetized books.

I dunno. I guess most people probably have one thing they’re way more particular about than most other things. The Architect’s is where the dishes go in the cabinet. K and I don’t ever put dishes away anymore. We will inevitably do it wrong, and then the Architect will actually take the dishes out and put them back where he likes them. What about you guys? Any things you’re weirdly particular about organizing?