Friday, July 16, 2010

Rediscovering the library.

I was so disappointed when we moved to southern Virginia seven years ago and I got a good look at the library systems here, first the county system where we first lived, and then the city system where we live now.

I moved here from Columbus, Ohio, a city and a state which both devoted a lot of attention and money toward their libraries. (Granted, this was in the prosperous 1990's--things may be different now in Ohio.) I worked for a while at one of the branch libraries in the Columbus system, a brand-new building with a vast "new books" section, gorgeous wooden bookshelves, high spacious ceilings, a fireplace and cozy seating area--and of course, access to all the books in all the other Columbus branches--millions of books just a day or two away, once requested. And since I worked there, picking up my requested books was simply part of my routine.

We had two libraries close by our home--one was also part of the Columbus system, and was extensively renovated while we lived there, and the other closest library was part of a village system, but a wealthy village with lots of money to throw at its library. That particular library has been renovated twice in the past fifteen years--it's basically a mall with books at this point.

It upset me probably more than it should have, moving to a place where libraries seem more like an afterthought than a prominent community feature. I've mentioned my current library before--a small, squat, dark place whose most interesting feature is that it's named after astronaut Gus Grissom.

Not that I'm opposed to small libraries, necessarily...while I was in college in Marietta, Ohio, I was a regular user of the Washington County public library on Fifth Street. It was a small, old building that smelled like dusty paper. I'd walk there from campus to get my required dose of murder mysteries and other non-college related reading material. Because it was old, it had that hushed, sacred, echoing quality that modern libraries can't quite achieve.

We also had a small old library in Columbiana, Ohio, which was my beloved childhood library, tucked behind the high school on a bumpy brick-paved street.
The steps down to the children's section in the basement were blood-red linoleum, narrow, slippery, steep, dark. (Obviously pre-Americans with Disabilities Act.) Every two weeks I would drag a bulging bookbag up the steps and out to the car. My mom would make me write a list of all my books the minute I got home, to try to avoid the ordeal of lost books and fines, which could run into some serious money with a kid who brought home as many books as I did. (That library was torn down years ago, and there's a nice, safe [boring] one-story modern library in a different neighborhood now.)

But the Grissom library in Newport News is small and charmless. It was built out of cement in that decade of architectural shame known as the 1970s. The new books section is sad and sparse. The building doesn't smell of old paper but of damp plastic carpet. And the library workers can be on the surly side. I go there once a year or so, and then I go home, missing Ohio.

But there must be some sort of belated homing instinct deep in my brain, like with swallows or pigeons, because about a month ago, I felt this deep desire to go to the library. For the past three years, I've been using Paperback Swap to fill my book needs (along with occasional trips to Borders) and although I love Paperback Swap passionately, there were books that I just wasn't able to find there, or that were so heavily wishlisted that it would be three more years before I'd work my way to the top of the list for them.

So I printed off a list of books I was looking for and spent some time clicking at the library card catalog computer and lo and behold--I found a lot of them. Not all by any means, but a lot. I brought home a stack, and went back a few days later to pick up another stack that I'd requested from the two or three other libraries in the city system.

I read through most of those (this all coincided with a 100-degree heat wave--good indoor reading weather) and went back two weeks later and brought home (and requested) two more big stacks. This time I also ventured into inter-library loan, which is not a service I've made much use of before, since I'm a person who tends to want books NOW.

I found that the library shelves and seating areas have been rearranged a bit, for a more open feel, which has greatly reduced the claustrophobic feeling. And I've found that early evening visits are the best--there are fewer people and more of a quiet bustle during that time, which is very soothing.

So far this has been the great satisfaction of my summer--bringing home big stacks of library books. The feeling reminds me so much of childhood summers, and that adds an extra layer of pleasure to it. All I would need to do is turn off the air conditioning and plop down on a blanket in front of a box fan with my newest read, and it would be like time traveling! (But I'm not turning off the a/c, not even to time travel!)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kitchen snowballs.

In true "if you give a mouse a cookie" fashion, my kitchen cabinet project has mushroomed into something a little more complicated. Not terribly complicated, but I can't start working on it just yet.

I was inspecting the cabinets and realized that, like the vanitites in the bathrooms, the countertop sort of wraps around and covers the top inch or so of the cabinet. Which means that the countertop really needs to come off before I start painting. (Otherwise, there's a ridge of paint that you have to sand and then you have to prime and paint that dumb little unfinished gap once the countertop does come off--annoying.)

I was going to start on the bar as sort of an appetizer before tackling the main course of big cabinets. So should we pull off the bar countertop so I can paint before finding a countertop, since it could take a number of weeks to get one in? No. We need to look at countertops now, so I can paint while we wait for it to come in.

I also found some cabinet doors at the Benjamin Moore store that I really liked, and took Todd in to see if he thought he could reproduce them. But since we were there anyway, we had the very nice man run us up an estimate on getting the cabinet doors pre-made from the company (I would paint them myself)...and we also picked out a countertop and added that to the estimate.

Hopefully, the Benjamin Moore estimate will be coming to my inbox today or tomorrow and then we can decide where to go from there. We also got an estimate from Lowe's on the countertops, but not the doors, as their cabinet companies only sell the whole cabinet set-up, boxes plus doors.

I did find a shade of white paint I liked at Benjamin Moore for the cabinets, called "Mascarpone," which is the soft Italian cheese that everyone* on the Food Network always mispronounces as "MARS-capone," which is one of those little things that drives me up the wall.

*Except Giada de Laurentiis, who over-pronounces it: "maaaahs-caaaaar-POOOOOH-nehhhh," which is almost as bad.

The countertop is a laminate called Ebony Star, which is black with lots of white speckles. I know everybody and their aunt insists on granite countertops these days, but in this house, it would be like sewing diamond buttons on a flannel shirt. Plus I don't really like granite, nor is it in the budget.

Then there's the issue of a new backsplash and possibly a new kitchen sink, since ripping out the countertop will probably muck up the tiles that are on the backsplash now, and why put a 20-year-old sink back into a shiny new countertop?

So you can see how these little ideas always, always snowball! The painting will hopefully be commencing in a few days. By which time I will probably have lost my desire/energy/focus to do it! That shiny new countertop will be the carrot to my painting-loathing donkey self, though.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Weekend's here!

Some friends of ours are going on a trip to Utah and had some garden produce to dispose of that wouldn't get eaten while they were gone. I'm already plotting what to do with these adorable baby squash and tomatoes this weekend. Homegrown produce is a rarity around here, like diamonds and rubies. I guess I need to make more farming friends.

On Monday Todd had the day off, so we went antique-hunting in Richmond. The pickings were slim but I did find these two very cute dishcloths:

I found a cross-stitched sampler I really liked too, but it was too much money for a sloppily-done piece. So I (ssh!) had Todd take a couple pictures of it. I'll share them at some point when he and his phone are both home and I can remember. What I'd like to do is print the photos large and use them as a guide for reproducing it. Should be pretty simple. I've been wanting to do a little stitching project for ages.

Today I went and got TSP cleaner, and rollers, and tape, and primer for the cabinets. I brought home a few paint chips, too, so as to get just the right shade of white! I'm ready to start tackling this project, but probably won't get down to it until Sunday, since we have some running around to do tomorrow.

Looking forward to a semi-productive weekend!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Just a note.

I'm home today working on laundry, so when I found this fun collage challenge over at Green Paper, I sat down and played along in between loads. Here's my creation:

And what a fun blog Green Paper is! I found it through another blog, The Feathered Nest, which is also a lot of fun. It's great to find new sources for vintage clip art and creative ideas.

Summer stuff.

We finally caught a break in the weather last week for a few days, and I was able to spray paint the little wicker basket on a stand I picked up for free at a yard sale a few weeks ago.

I just love before-and-afters, so here's the before again:

And the after:

How I love cheap projects! I want to get one or two more small plants to put in it, and maybe some different garden-type odds and ends. This is just a random collection of stuff I grabbed from the house to dress it up.

On the Fourth of July, the weather went back to insanely hot and humid after several wonderful cool days. We have so many projects we want to do on the front of the house, but there's no way to do any kind of sustained work outside in 100-degree heat. So I started thinking about what I could work on inside, and the kitchen cabinets sprang to mind.

I've been pondering what to do with the cabinets ever since we moved in four years ago...they are a nice quality oak finish, but the doors and lower edges are in bad shape. We decided long ago to do the same thing we did with our bathroom vanities: keep the cabinet, but paint it, and make new doors and paint those, too, plus add new hardware. It's worked out really well in the bathrooms.

However kitchen cabinets get much more use and abuse, so the process is a little longer and a little scarier. But since it will be probably two months before the weather is fit to work outside, this seems like a good way to accomplish something despite the weather.

Right now I'm trying to figure out what type of doors I want, and what color to paint them. I know they will be white, but I can't decide whether to go with the same white as the trim in the rest of the house, or whether to use a slightly warmer, creamier white. This all feels slightly terrifying! Nobody really looks at bathroom vanitites (At least I don't) but kitchen cabinets are right out there for all the world to see. Gotta get it right!

So think good thoughts for me as I research and buy my materials and unscrew that first cabinet door!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Fourth of July weekend.

I'm going to post the Memorial Day pictures I took of my front porch for the Fourth of July, since after a month of 90- and 100- degree temperatures, these flowers don't look so great any more.

The white and blue lobelia is all long dead...the red geraniums on the steps have mostly stopped blooming...the red geraniums in the hanging baskets are struggling along, but have about a third as many blooms on beloved blue and white petunia basket that I brought home from Ohio is hanging in there, too, but it has about half as many blooms now.

I've watered and Miracle-Gro'ed assiduously, but I guess potted plants can only take just so much. Now I have very little color left in my beds or on my porch, but I'm not sure I want to try planting any new annuals that will probably just crisp up and die in whatever summer blasts July has in store for us. Ah, gardening...! At least it was nice for a week or two...