Friday, June 25, 2010

Kitchen Remodel

We bought our house in May. It was a win-win-win - we were renting from friends of ours, and they were ready to sell. We seized the opportunity to become homeowners again without having to move! We love our little house, but as any homeowner knows, there are always things to change and upgrade. So we made our list, and the first big thing we decided to do was a little kitchen, or I guess, dining remodel. We have an eat-in kitchen instead of a separate dining room. So in that space we built in an eating area in the kitchen and painted. Well, without further ado, here are pictures!

Before, we had a large open wall along which we placed our counter-height table and a bookcase that sort of held all of our games and cookbooks. Along the perpendicular wall, we had a 55-gallon fish tank. The fish tank found a new home, the table found a new lot in life, and the bookcase... is in our hallway for now, until we get a new piece of furniture that matches and will hold everything and can move all of that stuff back into the kitchen.

We painted the kitchen a sage green - it's actually called Urban Safari, whatever that means. Mark's dad (who is a general contractor and who we couldn't have done this without!) put in bead board and a chair rail, then put in two storage benches.

We ordered a new standard-height table, in the same series as our counter-height table. Mark's dad cut down the chairs to fit the new height of the table. Mark and I spent three days looking for fabric and pillows to match the plates on the wall (the inspiration for the room), then used the fabric to cover foam for seating and the pillows as a back rest. New lighting, chair cushions, and some wall art from our living room completed the look, and we have a new eating area in our kitchen!

We love it! But to call it an "eating area" is probably misleading. Our true purpose for creating this space was to have a comfortable place to play games on the numerous game nights we have at our house. Before, we found ourselves gathered around our coffee table on the floor. Now we have a great game table and comfy seating. And a place to host a family meal or two. I guess that means I need to learn how to cook...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Just Hanging Around

My husband is taking a class to aid in his pursuit of a doctorate. The class is this week and next, and for its duration we're staying at his parent's house. The class meets from 8:30-3:30... which leaves me with 7 hours a day to fill!

The past three days I've spent with my parents, helping them sort through and weed out things that they don't need in preparation for a yard sale. While my parents are trying on my patience, I do enjoy spending time with them. My mom and I are at a point where we can have good conversations, and we fall into them easily. We talk about life and death, family, meaning, purpose, politics, the oil spill... everything. Today one of the topics was worry. It was a brief conversation, but I hope meaningful to her. It was meaningful for me for sure.

I have a list of things that I want to do this week, one of which was to read The Hunger Games, which I did. I've moved on to How to Read Literature Like a Professor. So far, it's really good. I've learned how to spot a quest from a mile away, and that's just the first chapter. As I get more and more into my lit classes, I'm hoping this will help me at least keep up with the other students who have been doing this for three + years.

I also brought with me a surplus of scrapbooking supplies. So far, I've only used the ruler to cover some cushions for our kitchen remodel and the paper cutter to help hubby create labels for his binder dividers, but they're there if I need a little creative outlet.

So, that's what I've been doing - just hanging around. I'm curious as to what I'll end up doing tomorrow, as it'll be the first day I don't spend with my parents. I may sleep, I may run some errands, but it's likely I'll spend it lazily reading or meandering around town. Who knows what fun I'll run in to along the way!

The Hunger Games

I finished a book today that I pretty much read in 24 hours. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is a young adult fiction novel about a futuristic society. From the website:

"In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

"Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love."

I had this book recommended to me several times over the past year or so. A bookstore employee at I think Barnes and Noble said it was wonderful when I was looking for some other young adult fiction novels (most of which turned out to be sub-par), and then one of my lit teachers mentioned it in class this past semester. So I figured I'd give it a try. Here's what I thought, and, just in case... Spoiler Alert. :)

The book was intriguing and gripping without being overly gory, which I feared it would be. But for a book where the main premise was one sixteen year old killing twenty-three other 12-18 year olds, the gore was very much in check. What I appreciated was the ability to show realistic characters. The main character, Katniss, had the ability to survive in the "wild" because of her upbringing - after her father's death when she was 11, she hunted and gathered and learned about how to survive off the earth to feed her family, so it's entirely plausible that she could transfer these skills to the game.

It's also entirely plausible that she would both defy and not defy the game keepers (those who control the game) and the Capitol in the way that she did. As I began the book and saw the beginning of her relationship with Peeta (the other competitor from her district), I expected her to join forces with him before the game began - to make some sort of pact that they would not kill one another, but would work to let the others kill each other, and then refuse to kill one another to force them to end the game.

In a way, this is what happened, but more because the gamekeepers decide to change the rules and allow both contestants from one district to win if they're the last two alive. It allows Katniss and Peeta to join forces then. Seeing Katniss work within the rules of the game and not openly defy the confines within which she finds herself makes her more realistic. We all want a gang-banging protagonist who shoots the bad guys (the Capitol, in this case, not the other contestants) out of the park. But, really, how often does that actually happen? With this ending, Katniss is able to keep her humanity. She only directly kills two other contestants, one out of an immediate need for survival and revenge, and the other as an act of mercy when he is injured beyond repair. I am not generally a fan of external forces stepping in and making a proper ending possible for a protagonist, as opposed to the protagonist figuring out how to make it right, but in this case I think it worked. At the least, it provided a way for the author to continue the story into a trilogy. Which leads me to... my surprise when I finished it.

When I got to the end of the book, I was surprised to see "End of Book 1," and to not feel like it had been a sufficient conclusion. And, of course, a trip to the closest bookstore revealed that the book does not just have a sequel - it's a trilogy. And the third book isn't even out yet. Ugh. I have this thing about series books. I don't like them. Okay... that's not true. It's not that I don't like them, but I choose carefully when to read them. I didn't start Harry Potter until I was forced to, and even then did so begrudgingly because I knew there were 3 more books yet to come without even publicized release dates. I only agreed to read Twilight because the fourth book was to be released within the week. I read the Gemma Doyle trilogy before the third was published, and ended up buying the third, in hardback, when it came out (which meant I had to buy the first two in hardback... another story for another day). I went in to The Hunger Games not knowing it was a trilogy. Had I known, I probably would have waited until the third was out.

It was a good book. I was unsettled by the violence and the almost enslavement of the players - even the willing ones. I think it could have explored those ideas, and maybe it will in the future books, giving me more to think about in the process. I have hopes for the next one, Catching Fire, though I hope they continue to focus on the adventure and the result of the experience on this character, as opposed to the love triangle that was set up in this first installment. I know that will be a major part of it, but hopefully not overwhelmingly. I'm anxious to read Catching Fire, and the third book (Mockingjay, I believe) - I like to complete things. In fact... I'm going to go reserve it at the library right now!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Here We Go Again

I thought of a new blog title, and decided to check and see if it was available as a url. Apparently, it is. So, here I am again.

I doubt this will last anymore than my last attempt at blogging, but hey, here's hoping!

The Peace In Between comes from my desire to find peace in the journey - in between where I am and where I want to be. Several years ago I took a class called Living Your Strengths, where you learn what your strengths are and how to use them in your life, and how to improve upon them. My number one strength is Input. I've figured out what it is: I basically like to collect - things, ideas, experiences, etc. And I like complete sets. The thing is, I have yet to figure out how exactly it's a strength, and not just something that clogs up my house and my resume. There are so many things that I want to do with my life, and I want to do them all, because, well, you know. I'm an Input. I'm 26 and already working on my third career path.

So here's to finding the peace in between. Being happy with who I am now, and where I am on the journey, all the while keeping hope that I will get to my goals someday, and being satisfied that I'm working in that direction, even if they're not realized yet.

Join me on the journey!