A Little Cupboard Work

There’s not a lot of time to work on the house repairs during the week, but both this week and next, I’ll have Tsarina home with me until almost 11 three out of five days (yes, it’s state testing season, and yes, we are SO opting out). So I’ve been able to do a few bits here and there. Here’s the basement as of Wednesday morning:

cupboards first coat

Imagine that! No more red!

In other news – you wouldn’t believe how many folks saw this picture cupboards 1on Twitter & Facebook and told me that they thought it was a giant spread of Hershey bars. Looking at it now, in a smaller version – yeah! I see it! But oh, the disappointment when they learned the bitter, brick-painted truth ….



Ah, Weekends

I have this memory. It’s so wild that I almost can’t believe it, but I know it’s true. It’s from the days before we had kids or owned a house, back when I had a 9 – 5 job and disposable income and a waist. I distinctly remember deciding that I needed to develop a hobby (in this case, sewing) because weekends were – wait for it – a little boring.

Oh, to go back in time and smack myself.

This weekend began the adventure known as Painting the Kitchen Cupboards. I last painted the cupboards about eight or ten years ago. The husband took the kids away for a weekend and I painted. That was it. I might have done some writing, but mostly, I painted. When I was done, I ached all over but the cupboards looked fantastic.

Unfortunately, I am a bit of a dumbass when it comes to most household stuff, and I didn’t realize that I should have used glossy paint, or put something (varnish?) over the top. So you can imagine how well the paint job endured. I spent this winter wincing every time I walked into the kitchen. My plan was to spend the week of April break redoing the cupboards.

But then we found the potential new house, and had to make a frantic dive into getting this place fixed up. The floors are done, the World’s Ugliest Bathroom is remodeled, the Dumpster is booked, many minor repairs are done, the mulching is behind us,  the family/living/dining rooms have been repainted, and the professional painters are booked to come do the kitchen/hall/master bedroom. The last Big Honking Job is the facelift of the cupboards. We’re using one of those Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation kits, which walks you through the whole process. But even with that, we’re talking a time consuming job. Take down all the cupboard doors, empty all the drawers, get everything staged in the basement (because it turned freaking COLD again this weekend and we couldn’t use the garage as planned) … That in itself took the first half of Saturday. Then and only then did we get to start using the kit.

cupboards 1

Here’s the basement, covered in doors and drawers that have been through Step 1, cleaning/deglossing.

frames base coat

And here’s the kitchen, where progress was a little faster and we got through the deglossing and two bonding coats. All that woodwork used to be the same brick red as the doors. We’re going to need a third coat but you can get an idea of how it’s working.

Tsarina will be going into school late three days this week and next week (thank you, State English and Math tests from which we are opting out). I’m hoping to use those hours she’s staying home with me to get through a few more coats behind us. We need to get this done because next weekend belongs to – wait for it – loading the first trash trailer!


Hello Blankness, My Old Friend

Last week, I handed in a book. If you are not a writer, I can assure you that there are few things in the world that feel better than hitting SEND and knowing that you don’t have to think about those particular characters EVER AGAIN. Or, you know, until the revision letter arrives, but who’s thinking about that?

This was a particularly sweet send-off because there has been a whole lot of life here at Casa Chaos this month. In addition to finishing the book, I was doing a boatload of work for a promotion over on the SuperAuthors blog AND the Geek and Geekess became officially engaged AND we painted two rooms AND we signed papers to list this house BECAUSE we found a smaller place, put in an offer, and had it accepted. And we had the new house inspected. And there have been mountains of paperwork. And both girls were (and I) were sick. And there have been other situations which are not mine to share, but which have taken even more emotional energy.

So yeah. Knowing that I was going to make my deadline despite all the LIFE was a pretty sweet feeling.

Except now I am facing this:

blank whiteboard

Ah, yes, the dreaded Blank Screen. (Or whiteboard, in this case.) I have plenty of preliminary notes and possibilities for the next book, but they are all still floating around in my head, unshapen and unrecorded. Which means it’s time to start the whole process again.Which is both exciting and terrifying, in equal parts and at the same time.

Kind of like buying a new house, actually.


Who Needs Floor Space, Anyway?

Over the years, you folks have seen my office in many different states.

Totally messy:
office chair

Then cleaned and fitted out with my desk bike:

bike 3-3

But it’s sporting a new and far more complex picture these days. See, we’re having the floors of four rooms (and a set of stairs) refinished. Which means we had to fit four rooms worth of furniture into other spots around the house. Which means that my office now looks like this:

floors office 2floors office 1

But at least I can still get to the computer AND we still have wi-fi. Priorities, people!

It Can Wait

bed booksThis is not my usual type of blog post. This is more along the lines of a public confession. And, possibly, a plea for help.

I’m tired tonight. I was tired all day. It was the third day this week (out of four – I’m writing this Thursday night at 8:15) that I dragged myself through the day, fueled by caffeine and sugar. I wasn’t able to do my best work. I came perilously close to snapping at the kids. I’m too wiped to have fun. And do you know why I’m so tired?

Because I’m an idiot.

I get up at 5 each morning. This started years ago, when the quiet mornings were my only time to write. Now, I’m up early to have time to do yoga/go for a walk/shower/dress/pack Tsarina’s lunch/clean the bathrooms/etc before delivering her to school and starting my writing day.

The early hour is not the problem. I like being the only one awake and having time to get through those tasks, so I am free to focus on writing (and, okay, Pinterest) while the girls are at school. The idiocy comes in at night. Almost every night. When I habitually stay up too late.

How late? Well, last night, I got a little over five hours of sleep. Yeah. Idiocy.

Why do I do this to myself? Part of it is the fact that the rest of the world thinks at lights out at 9:30 or 10 is kind of lame. Part of it is that I get my second wind around 9:30, so if I’m not out by then, I have a hard time falling asleep. A little bit of it is due to the fact that Hubs snores loud enough to shake the house. (To whoever invented ear plugs: BLESS YOU.)

But the biggest culprit is me. I have so much to DO! I have to get it all done NOW! I didn’t make my word count/fold the laundry/answer that overdue email/play an online game! I won’t be able to relax if I don’t get the laundry/words/blog done before bed, so why not just get them done now?

I’ll tell you why. Because it leads to too many days like the one I just had. And, because I’m too tired to do my best during the day, I end up – you guessed it – cramming my work into the evenings after the girls are in bed.  Which leads to me being too wound up to fall asleep. Which leads to another exhausted day. Which leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of stupid.

It has to stop.

I don’t like turning out the lights and going to sleep. There is so very much I want to do. But I wonder if half the reason I want/need to do so much is because I’m too frickin’ tired to appreciate and enjoy the things that matter?

I’m setting a goal, and I’m not waiting until January to start it. In bed by 9, lights out by 10, at least five nights out of seven. It means no more post-critique runs to the grocery store, or watching fun stuff on YouTube. It even means less – sigh – Pinterest.

But I need to do this. For myself, for my family, for my work.

And with that – it’s 8:30. Thme for me to put freshly-washed sheets on my bed and climb in.


Casa Chaos Updates: the November Edition

Here at Casa Chaos, we’re diving into the holidays in the most traditional way – by painting the family room. Because isn’t it everyone’s dream to fit the Christmas tree in among ladders and paint buckets?

But this was desperately overdue. Our family room, comfy as it is, was a definite page from the 70’s, as you can see:

family room before

We’re lightening it up, painting the walls the very softest of greys and doing the bookshelves and mantel in a darker grey. Unless we change the color scheme again. Which is quite possible.

The reward for doing this work will be …. redoing the World’s Ugliest Bathroom!

(Don’t laugh. That’s my Christmas present.)

November is a challenging month because the kids are out of school as much as they are in it. They’re off for Veteran’s Day, then three days for Thanksgiving, and Tsarina had two half days to accommodate parent-teacher conferences. So the girls and I had plenty of time to bond 🙂 We did have some lovely mother-daughter outings, so, you know. Bonus.

Then came Thanksgiving! The Mensch was the only boy who could make it home this year, but we had a lovely time with him. We cook the dinner ourselves. Once a year, it’s a treat to go all out and spend a full day preparing the meal. And of course, Thanksgiving means the traditional Purple Turkey!purple turkey

No, the turkey isn’t diseased. This is what it looks like after a couple of days in a red wine brine. The color cooks out. But we had great fun convincing one of Tsarina’s friends that there are indeed purple turkeys and that they could be purchased at the grocery store.

In between the cooking and the painting and the school-less days, though, there was writing! I’m closing in on the end of the first draft of the next Comeback Cove book. I’ve also plotted out the major points of the first full-length Elias sisters book and done some brainstorming on titles for those. Can’t wait to share the results with you all!

And now it’s time to take a deep breath and dive into the holidays, with all their bustle and planning and wonder. It’s time for carols and spreadsheets, for candles and secrets, for whispers and promises. Let the joyful rush begin.

What I’m Reading:

wimpy kidDiary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School

Okay, officially I am reading this with Tsarina. But let’s be honest. These books are too funny to let the kids have all the fun.

In this tenth Wimpy Kid book, our hero Greg deals with the good old days in a number of different ways, such as his mom leading the town in an unplugged weekend or his own visit to Hardscrabble Farms. We’re still reading, so I haven’t seen how everything ties together yet, but I can tell you this: it’s worth reading if only for the episode involving Grandpa and the highway.

What I’m Singing:

I admit it. I am a sick, sick woman.

The Joy of Freezer Meals

freezer meals

Do you know what’s in that picture, folks? It’s called peace of mind.

Oh, the literal-minded will simply see four baggies in a freezer, each one stocked with a meal that’s ready to either slow-cook or reheat. But I look at that corner of the freezer and see preparation. Respite. Calm in the middle of some intense days.

I had heard of folks prepping a week or month’s worth of meals for the freezer in one giant marathon, but I had never really pursued it until I was browsing Pinterest (aka “falling into the rabbit hole”) and saw pins from folks discussing freezing meals to slow cook. And then, did my eyes and ears perk up.

I checked out some pins. Explored some helpful blogs and websites. Read up on some awesome recipes. And immediately decided to stick my toe into these still waters.

I planned out three freezer meals (yes, I know there’s four bags. Bear with me.) Picked up the extra groceries during my regular shopping. And on Monday night, when dinner was over, I spent an hour chopping, assembling, and labeling. When the hour was up, I had three meals for the freezer, and Tuesday night’s dinner all assembled in the crockpot & ready to plug in. Not bad for an hour’s work!

The instructions are written on the outside of the bag (as you can see in the photo). Essentially, when it comes time to use one, I will need to take these oh-so-intimidating steps:

  1. The night before I need it, move the selected meal bag from the freezer to the fridge.
  2.  The next morning, dump the contents into the crockpot.
  3.  Add any last ingredients that might be required (a cup of water, some wine, whatever).
  4.  Plug in the crockpot and go do something else.

You know, I wouldn’t have believed that slow cooking could get any easier. Now I know.

Oh, and that fourth bag up there? I was making beefaroni & it made a huge batch, so I threw half of that in the freezer before baking. Because rumor has it that late November and all of December require a lot of cooking already, so you can’t be too prepared.






Casa Chaos Update: October 2015


No, please don’t let October be done yet! Can’t it stay a little longer?

We’ve been taking advantage of the sunny days lately, hitting the playground once the homework is done, trying to stock up on sunshine and fresh air before winter drives us all into our burrows. We also zipped down to the Sunshine State for the Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend. We rented a house in our favorite development and spent three days at Disney. Best of all, the Mensch and the Geek & Geekess were able to join us. Lots of laughs, many stories, and more than one bomb dropped on Mom’s head. (“So Mom, I applied for a job in Antarctica …”)

Other than that it’s been pretty routine. Tsarina played rec soccer (now thankfully finished). HRH has joined many groups in her new school and is really enjoying being an official High School Student. I’m writing my next Superromance, plotting the second Berkley release, and doing my best to avoid freaking as the December holidays creep ever closer.Index cards and spreadsheets are my new best friends!

What I’m Reading:

HarriettHarriet the Invincible, by Ursula Verson

A friend recommended this for Tsarina, and it sounded so wild – a hamster princess? – that we had to check it out. So glad we did! This was a hoot, for both Tsarina and me. Many of the Amazon reviews mention the Muppet-like humor that operates on one level for kids and another for adults, and I think they hit it on the head. Harriet isn’t your typical princess. She knows that and she takes full advantage of it. When she learns she’s been cursed by a wicked fairy, she finds the upside to that and sets off on a series of definitely not-your-usual princess adventures. If you’re looking for a fun, stereotype-twisting story that challenges traditions while still embracing them, go for this one.

What I’m Singing:

HRH has been walking around the house singing a new song about ancient Mesopotamians. It’s very cute, but you KNOW where my mind and memory went after hearing it: straight here.

king tut

Casa Chaos Update: the September Edition

I keep wondering how the first month of school can be over already. Then I remember that

  • They didn’t start until Sept. 8 – the month was already almost 1/3 over, and
  • This is the first week they’ll go five full days in a row. I’m serious. Week 1, they started on the Tuesday. Week – Rosh Hashanah. Week 3 – Yom Kippur. SO here we are, week 4, and it’s finally a full week – which will be followed by 2 4-day weeks in a row (thank you, Columbus Day). No wonder it feels like they’re never in school!

Other than trying to remember which day they’re off this week, it’s been a decent month. (Translation: I haven’t had to pack my suitcase at all!) The Geek & Geekess came for a fast visit over Labo(u)r Day weekend. We picked apples. We’ve had a long stretch of the most gloriously perfect weather – chilly nights, mildly warm days. HRH made a successful transition to high school and so far, she’s thriving. Tsarina still doesn’t like this class as much as last year’s class, but she’s settling in and making new friends (just like Mommy said would happen – oh, what a surprise!).

And we are working on memorizing times tables. Tsarina is a very visual/kinesthetic learner, so I’ve had to rethink all my approaches. Here’s my latest attempt to help her internalize this stuff:

math stepsBut mostly, I’ve been busy writing. The flip side of my sale to Berkley books means that I’m now writing for two publishers. Which means twice as many books to release. Which means twice as many – gulp – deadlines.

Which means, sadly, that I don’t have as much time to blog as I once had. On the other hand, since all I do now is stay home and write, it’s not like I have a lot of exciting adventures to share, yanno? 🙂

And that’s okay with me. I’m very fond of both my home and my work, and I’ll keep sharing them with all of you once or twice a week. After all, you never know where Miss Piggy will head to next …

What I’m Reading

GillabrandOff The SIdelines, by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Full disclosure: I picked this up purely for research purposes. But I found myself swiftly drawn in by the warmth and humor of the Senator as she navigates Congress while raising two young boys. I mean, how can you not feel for a woman who had to change her baby’s diaper on the Governor’s conference table before being sworn in as a Senator? Or who had to go directly from that ceremony to a pediatrician’s office, because her preschooler was sick? It was a fascinating, easy read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a look at the human side of public service.

What I’m Singing:

My Something Rotten kick is still in full bloom. Enjoy.