New Office Smell

Our house has been a veritable hive of activity lately. We’re doing a lot of work on it this summer, and by “we”, I mean contractors, of course, because I’m barely competent with a drill.

The first big project is mostly done, and that’s our new office!

First, some “before” shots for context:

This is the second floor of the oldest part of our house. When I was a kid, it had a staircase in the middle, leading down to the living/dining/kitchen areas, and served as my parents’ bedroom and my brothers’ and my nursery. Eventually my parents moved their bedroom to a newer part of the house, the staircase was closed and replaced with a new one in a different location, and the upstairs became a storage room and makeshift guest bedroom.

By the time we moved in, it was the de-facto place for all those odds and ends my parents didn’t know what to do with, plus all the stuff we moved that was supposed to go to the office. We planned to renovate sooner, but the costs of moving, taking a loss on our condo, and Gwen’s hospital bills set us back.

Three years later, we hired a family friend to start bringing the space back to life. It needed a new ceiling, trim, paint, and carpet…and to have all our junk cleaned out of it and sorted. Mom took care of most of her stuff, and we left the contracting work to a pro. Sorting everything was an exercise in nostalgia; even though I did a big purge before we moved, there were still a lot of things I didn’t miss in the three years they sat up here, unused. A lot of stuff was donated.

I can’t reiterate how nice it is having a dedicated workspace. I haven’t had an “office” that was truly my own since before Ellie was born, so having the freedom and space to do what I want with space is a thrill. And having worked here for a couple weeks, I’m surprised I managed as well as I did at the kitchen table; there are still interruptions, of course, and always will be while the kids are small, but it’s great having a place to escape to.

And the timing worked out perfectly, because now the front wall of the house is being redone, so the kitchen, dining, and living rooms are a mess! The office has become my sanctuary amongst the chaos.

Adventures in Crafting: Home Décor Edition

Despite my love of all things pretty, home décor is one area of visual design I’m terrible at. It’s not so much my taste, but I find the process of decorating so overwhelming that I’ve become adept at ignoring my surroundings when I don’t know what to do with them.

The orange wallCase in point: Our last home had a hideous hunter-orange accent wall in the living room, and it stayed that way for five years because every time I tried to imagine something different for the space, my brain folded in on itself like a dysfunctional camp chair. In fact, the only painting we did while we lived there was Ellie’s room (a five-person effort that took months) and our teeny downstairs half bath (and only because there was water damage, and I still had a meltdown mid-project).

Thankfully most of this house was painted when we moved in two years ago, but we haven’t done much beyond that. I put up a few pictures, but most of the walls remain bare, and there’s one wall in the living room that’s particularly sad. It’s in an awkward place, partly behind the wood stove on the left and the mounted TV on the right. It’s large, and all our furniture is oriented toward it, so this wall is the focal point of the room, and it’s blank.

It didn’t help that, while in Boston, I visited Ikea for the first time. If there’s anything that can make you feel sad about your current living situation, it’s a trip to a perfectly curated furniture store. I came away with a few bits and bobs, but mostly what I got out of the trip was determination to do something about the living room to make it cozier and give it some personality.

You wouldn’t know it, but that big empty space in the background is a living room.

First step: Figure out what to do about the damn wall. Pinterest to the rescue! I’d seen the wire + clips method of hanging photos before and decided to improvise using clothespins and hemp rope.

For the technical bits, I measured from the top of the sheetrock, starting about eight inches down and spacing the strings eight inches apart. I drilled eye hooks into the wall on each side, with the hemp rope tied tightly between them. The rope still drapes a bit, and I staggered the lengths to give it a less rigid feel. As much as I love modern design, our house doesn’t look the part.

I don’t have a before and after picture, because that would require foresight and planning, neither of which factored into this project. Just imagine this wall with absolutely nothing on it, and you get the idea.


The final result is a mishmash of family snapshots, postcards, and art prints and photographs. For accents, I made some flower medallions out of scrapbook paper, collages, old keys, and bottle caps from my collection. I eventually replaced the larger standard clothespins with miniature versions, so they’re less intrusive and add less weight to the strings.

The beauty of this is the ability to change out the photos when we (read: I) inevitably get bored.


I also put down a new rug. It’s bold. It’s bright. It has loads of personality! I was worried it would be too much, both in size and pattern, but it fits perfectly. The dog has already thrown up on it, but his opinion doesn’t count.


Add some throw pillows, repurpose the kids’ toy box as a coffee table, and throw a sheet over the run-down love seat, and voila! We have a brand new living room for basically the cost of the rug and a couple pillows.

Next up: The stairwell wall gallery.

2010 in review

Elspeth's Second BirthdayThe fact that I’m 10 days late with this year in review is appropriate, given how regular I’ve been about blogging lately… which is to say, not regular at all!

One of the things I did start in 2010, albeit a little late, was a regular exercise routine. Since mid-October I’ve exercised every single day in some form or another, and I definitely notice a difference. Without changing my diet drastically, I’ve lost about 10 lbs and I feel so much better about myself. I knew there was a reason I used to do this! I’m sticking to 20 minutes a day of either aerobic stepping with Wii Fit or Dance Dance Revolution… DDR in particular is a really good workout. That’s one thing I’ll definitely be continuing in the new year.

The other health-related thing I’d like to keep up with: No fast food. I don’t even really like the stuff, but it’s so easy to get into the habit of pulling up to the drive-through when I’m in a rush. Tim and I have made a point of bringing our lunches to work for the last month and it’s greatly helped our budget and health, so this month we’re using the same rule for breakfasts to save even more money.

2010 was a moderately creative year as well. I put all of last year’s doodles in a set and came up with nearly 90 illustrations, which doesn’t even include all the custom design for other clients. Photographically I was also more active in 2010–only 3 shoots total, but that’s a huge improvement over the big fat zero from 2009. And I’m really proud of the work I did produce, so I hope to keep that going this year. And I’m proud of the websites I’ve built for myself this year, even if I haven’t exactly been consistent about updating them!

On a personal note, Tim and I celebrated 10 years together in 2010. We also celebrated Elspeth’s second birthday, and our second year of parenting a toddler–yikes. And we survived our second major home project when we renovated our downstairs bathroom (practically at gunpoint, thanks to water damage and black mold, but still.) I checked an item off my life list when we saw Joshua Radin in concert. We also had our first family vacation and escaped with our sanity mostly intact, which is something.

Phew. I don’t think I realized until now just how busy 2010 was. I have a sneaking suspicion 2011 is going to be just as busy on all fronts. Case in point: There will be potty training.

Bring it on!

can we skip friday entirely?

I have this burning desire to write something, but I have absolutely nothing to say.  Maybe this is a cry for attention.  Or perhaps I’m just desperate for the last 20 minutes of my work day to be over, and need whatever distraction I can possibly get.


What is Caro thinking right now?:

  • I could really get into this bento thing.
  • I love my car, Tyrtle, a little green Volkswagen Golf.  It is a wonderful car, except this morning it leaked on me.  It seems there is a broken seal around the moonroof, because when the S.O. braked, water from last night’s rain came streaming into my lap.  Good morning, Caro!  Fancy a shower?
  • I do not have enough money to warrant having such a bad case of the gimme-gimmes.
  • There need to be more games like GrowCube.
  • Speaking of growing, my job is growing on me.  Growing on me like mold on stale bread.
  • I can walk!
  • I am going home to a new dishwasher!  Though word around the cubicle is, the S.O. left the house and forgot to turn off the tap.  I may be going home to a flooded kitchen, too.
  • 4:21?  It’s only 4:21?  Arrrgh!
  • Finally, I just want to take a moment to thank Mr. Columbus for making the upcoming three-day weekend possible.  Now if it would only get here faster.


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my other ride is a succubus!

Good news:  I am mobile!  As in, walking!  As in, HURRAH!

And being that I’ve spent the last three weeks cooped up in the house with nowhere to go and nothing to do (unless it involves the world of Azeroth), I spent most of the weekend jumping for joy on my not-entirely-healed-but-getting-there foot.

Saturday:  “We needa go here!  And there!  And here!  And over there!  And oh, look!  Shopping!  Movies!  Shopping!  Assembling furniture!  Rearranging furniture!  Cleaning!  There here there here there here WEEHEEEEEEEE.”

Sunday:  “Owwwwww, why does my foot hurt so much?”

Very surprised the S.O. didn’t shoot me full of tranquilizers, or better yet, break my other foot.  But no, being the wonderful S.O. that he is, he mostly just tried to keep up with me in his quiet, humble way.

In any case, it was a good weekend, full of movement.  And walking.  And did I mention the walking?  Grand.

In other exciting news, we’re getting a dishwasher.  One of those portable/convertible ones, on wheels.  This is particularly exciting because currently the only portable dishwasher in the house is yours truly (and I haven’t exactly been portable for the last few weeks!).  So, I’m being replaced by a GE Nautilus on Thursday, and we are purposely letting the dishes pile up in the sink until then, because what fun is a new dishwasher if you don’t have dirty dishes to wash?  That’s what I’m telling myself, anyhow.

Not Your Average Family Portrait
Mmm, Shiny Dead Things

And finally, it wouldn’t truly be an update unless I talked about WoW, would it?

My guild made its first attempt on Hakkar a week or so ago, and we killed him on the second try.  This was a particularly big accomplishment for us, since we’ve been running Zul’Gurub for over a year now – we can finally say we’ve cleared it.  Our recent success had us acting all, “C’mon Blizzard!  Why dontcha throw something hard our way for once, eh?  BRING IT!”

And then, there was Ragnaros.  Back to the drawing board, guild!

Meanwhile, Cyspar ventured into Dire Maul last night with a group of familiar faces:  Mom’s mage, Dad’s priest, the S.O.’s druid, a guild tank and myself.  The family that plays WoW together dies mercilessly together… many, many times.  Our objective:  To attempt Cyspar’s epic Dreadsteed quest.

Much glass chewing ensued, mostly because I’d forgotten how hard it is to run 5-man instances when you’re not outfitted in epics.  Situations that would be a piece of cake for Sheara are near-deadly for Cyspar.  It doesn’t help that I’m still not used to playing a DPS class instead of a healer – I spent most of the run watching health bars go up and down, and panicking when the tank dropped below 20%.  “Oh crap!  Gotta heal him!   Bandage, bandage, banda… oh, wait, we have a priest.  And a druid.  Right.  Throw a freakin’ shadow bolt now and again, won’t you?”

In the end, we succeeded… barely.  We survived the summoning ritual – waves upon waves of imps and big ugly demons – and defeated the dreadsteed itself, but died at the stinky feet of his ugly demon companion.  The entire thing had me shrieking obscenities at my laptop while the S.O. looked on in something that came precariously close to amusement (but he knows better than to admit it).  Thankfully we were able to run back as a group and defeat the big guy, and now Cyspar has a flaming, pointy, demon-horsey.  Rawr!

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