Man Not Included (Revisited)

I’ve learned a lot about the challenges involved with home ownership since I bought my own house two years ago. This was a post I wrote last October when I had the idea to hang some shelves. Perhaps I can impart some of my “wisdom” on fellow single chicks who find themselves faced with unexpected repairs or home improvements. You’ve heard of “batteries not included.” Well this is “Man Not Included.”

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Me and my drill. Back when I had long hair.

Me and my drill. Back when I had long hair.

Man Not Included – 10/9/2012

My youngest daughter loves her stuffed animals and toys. She loves them so much that she insists on taking several to bed with her. After several weeks of this, her bed always becomes rather cluttered but as she has the smallest bedroom and storage space is limited in my 900 square foot house, I had to figure out a workable solution. I am rather fond of home design and remodel shows and on such shows they often tout the importance of using vertical space, i.e. installing shelves on walls. This sounded like a good idea indeed and so I set about implementing it.

I grew up with two older brothers and was married forever so if a house project needed doing, there was always a man to do it. Now that I have my own house and am happily divorced (yes, I said happily, not a typo), it’s all up to me to do house projects. While it’s true I could have asked my oldest brother to help me with the task, he had already said he’d help me move my friend’s slightly used but working washer and dryer into my basement. I figured him doing me that favor was enough to satisfy brotherly love and loyalty for a while. I didn’t want to push my luck.

Shelving project in mind, I headed to a big box home improvement store Friday evening after work. The shelves to support a collection of stuffed animals and toys didn’t need to be anything heavy duty so I started perusing the selection of those white painted wire shelves used for closet organization. There was a package of two four-foot shelves and the price was right so I placed them in my cart. I then picked out the brackets I needed and started looking for the shelf supports. None of the supports in the aisle looked right and my confused expression eventually drew the attention of an employee. He helped me find what he thought would work and I added the supports to my cart.

I know from watching and helping with several home improvement projects that shelves need to be securely mounted to the wall to ensure safety and longevity. The brackets for the shelves included anchors and screws and as I know you can never find a wall stud when you need one, I was certain I’d have to use anchors. Installing anchors requires drilling holes. I didn’t own a drill so off to the power tool section I went. Now I am certainly not trying to sound sexist here, but it is very rare thing indeed to see a woman among the power tools unless it’s the holidays and she’s shopping for her man. There were a handful of men in the power tools section thoughtfully pouring over the selection of drills and bits and sanders, etc. and then there was me.

I glanced at the cordless drills and saw a small Black & Decker one that appealed to me but as the boxes for them were in a different aisle, I decided I’d move down and pick out some drill and screwdriver bits first. Thankfully the shelf brackets said exactly what size drill bit was required for the included anchors and I found that in a set of 29 drill bits that was on sale. I could have just purchased the 3/8 inch drill bit that was needed for the job but I’d learned from observation that there always seems to be a need for a decent sized collection of bits. As I’m certain I’ll have more home improvement projects down the road, I made the most economical and sensible choice. I also grabbed a small package of double ended screwdriver bits and then went to the aisle with the cordless drills in boxes. The one I’d see on display wasn’t in stock so I grabbed the next size up for only slightly more money.

I now felt that I was properly “armed” for my shelving project and made my purchases. This may sound funny, but buying tools always gives me this cool sense of power and empowerment. I am a single woman and I own my home so it just makes sense that I should be able to take care of whatever needs to be done. I admit that I have no desire to ever attempt to repair my vehicles and prefer to pay qualified mechanics to do so, but my house is different. It’s a lot of work to maintain a home in the country, especially one on 1.4 acres but I always manage and I’m constantly learning. With each new task I accomplish, I gain more pride in my home and in myself and such qualities are not a bad thing to possess. How did installing the shelving go? Well, that’s a story for another day…

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Finding the Future Potential – Part 1

Worth a try...

Worth a try…

In the spring of 2012 I had this bold, crazy idea to try to sell my writing services without any middle-man. I’d been working for content mills and freelance sites for a couple of years and I had become quite familiar with adapting my “flowery” creative writing talents to fit a variety of topics. As I’ll be living in North Shore Massachusetts someday in the not-too-distant future, I sent letters via USPS to realtors in that area offering my anonymous writing skills. It seemed logical to form a client base where I would be living someday. I explained to the realty offices that I was available to write blog posts and/or property descriptions and attached a sample of my work. I never heard anything back.

I imagine the realty offices I wrote to wondered why a woman from Upstate New York felt she was qualified to write about Massachusetts property listings. At that time I had yet to visit Amesbury and the surrounding towns and I’m sure my sample piece demonstrated that. There’s also the distinct possibility that the letter I sent them went directly into the recycle bin without ever being read. It was a bold, crazy move for me and even though it fell flat, I’m still proud of myself for trying.

I’ve been looking at homes in Amesbury, Newburyport, Salisbury, Newbury, Haverhill and numerous other places in that area for well over a year. The real estate market up there is apparently booming because the listings I like are rarely on the market for long. In light of that, I’ve concluded that the homes basically sell themselves. Even if realtors post vague listing details, dimly lit photos and descriptions splattered with typos or presented all in caps, the homes sell. Why on earth would they ever consider hiring a freelance writer to describe a home or blog about the area when buyers can look at photos and do online research themselves? I believe someday I’ll give them a reason.

Following is a picture of a sun room in a property for sale in Salisbury, MA. I’m not giving the address because I’m sure it will sell just fine on its own and I have no affiliation with the listing realtor.

Sun room view 1

Sun room view 1

As an experienced home purchaser, I’ve learned to see beyond the current state of a home and find the future potential. It’s a beautiful space with lots of natural light, but just by looking at these pictures, I see room for improvement.  I like the warm yellow color of the room, the Cathedral ceilings and the multiple windows with sweeping views of the property. There’ room for improvement and a few changes would reveal its future potential.

For one, the room feels very crowded. The couch seems too big and sticks out into the room too far. The matching lamps, end tables and centrally located coffee table would create nice symmetry if not for the brown chair tucked up on the right. That chair doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the room. Then there’s the window treatments, or lack thereof. The basic vertical blinds let the light in when open and provide privacy and shade when closed, but they don’t add any style to the room.  I browsed through some pictures on Houzz.com and these are options I think would suit the room nicely.

I like the idea of curtain rods that run the length of the room. Separate rods would make the space appear broken up, disjointed and ruin the airy feel. The floor length curtains make the rooms feel taller and the wood floors nicely amplify the sunlight streaming in. Mixing solid color panels with patterned panels is a great way to bring in texture and depth without being overwhelming or distracting from the natural beauty of the windows. The size and placement of the furnishings fit these rooms perfectly as they keep with a unifying color theme.

Here’s another window treatment and room layout that I think would work well.

The sheer navy roller blinds are stunning even when only drawn halfway down. They provide shade and privacy when needed but don’t completely block the view. The furnishings coordinate with a blue and white theme and receive a bold, rich accent from the dark wood finish on the tables and chair frames. The natural wood floor ties in perfectly to the bright, coastal mood of the space with a color mimicking beach sand visible out the windows.

As the sun room in the property for sale looks out onto green grass and trees, pulling those colors inside through window coverings and furnishing choices is an ideal way to coordinate the design. Hard flooring, whether wood, tile or laminate, would work better in this room than the current wall to wall carpeting. A light-colored hard flooring would brighten the space and give the option of bringing in an area rug. The furnishings need to be sized to the room better so the space doesn’t feel so heavy with furniture. There’s ample future potential in this sun room and I’m certain its new owner will redesign it to suit their personal tastes.

This post is called “Part 1” for a reason. There’s a second picture of the sun room I want to discuss improving but it would make this post far longer than its already excessive length. As if it’s not obvious from this post, I love looking at homes and writing about interior design. I’m not actually a realtor or an interior designer but I’ve played both those roles extensively through my writing. I’m always learning something new and utilizing that knowledge in my work. Part of finding my future potential is evolving into a better version of the unique creature known as JulieAnn.

Queen of Artwork

Surrounded by some of my many paintings, 2011

Surrounded by some of my many paintings, 2011

My first set of real acrylic paints came from a fellow coworker at the mall pretzel place I worked at in high school. He was an older gentlemen who used to paint but didn’t have the time anymore. He gave me his hinged wooden case complete with a palette and various colors of acrylic paint. I discovered that most of the paint tubes were too dried out to use so my mother took me to an art supply store.  I spent most of my paycheck on tubes of colors with cool names like phthalocyanine blue and cadmium yellow and on long handled brushes of all shapes and bristle length. Most importantly I purchased some canvas boards so I had something to paint on. I was now armed with all sorts of artist supplies but I had no idea what exactly I was capable of creating.

I still use that wooden case and palette to this day, in fact that palette had almost 20 years of old paint on it until last night when I decided to clean it off. Sometimes completing a painting takes longer than I expect so by the time I’m done some of the paint has dried pretty happily onto the palette. If it’s a color I didn’t use much of, the glob can be kind of big and lumpy and impossible to wipe off with just warm water. I had grown accustomed to my “messy” palette and even fond of the various colors but it had become just too hard to see what colors I was using anymore. I decided to scrape the old paint off with a razor blade and was rather surprised that it all just started peeling up off the wood once I got under a thick area of it. My oldest daughter enjoyed helping me peel a majority of the rubbery dried acrylic paint off and I thought what was removed almost resembled art. I say almost because it really wasn’t and it went into the trash, but not before I took a commemorative photo…

The old paint scraped off my palette

The old paint scraped off my palette

I never know where the inspiration for my paintings is going to come from. Most of the time it just sort of comes out of me as I paint but sometimes it comes from unexpected places. It could be from a dream I had or a story I read or something I saw outside or a picture a friend took on their phone and sent me. I’ve been taking pictures of beautiful skies for as long as I’ve been able to figure out how to work a camera. I’ve used entire rolls of film taking photos of sunsets and sunrises and only ever painted a few pictures based on them. Lately I’ve been looking at photos of even mundane things differently and it’s not because of the subject matter but because of where the photos came from. I will be visually explaining in new paintings in the very near future.

All of what you just read was originally posted on my Corbin Creations Writer & Artist page back in January 0f 2012. I did visually explain those mundane-inspired paintings and they will be listed for sale in my CorbinGirl Etsy Shop very soon!

Queen of the King Size Bed – Part 2

Saying I am Queen of the king size bed is all well and good but I thought I’d show it as well. I’ve worked hard for everything I have and endured my share of ups and downs but I am stronger because of it. I workout daily by walking my dog, playing Dance Central or doing P90x2 and while I am not a hardbody by any means, I am pleased with my shape. There is something to be said for a woman with curves and that something is that she is beautiful. I am beautiful. My beauty comes from within and my physical form is just the vessel for it. I have self-image issues just like every other woman in the world but most days I’m pretty content with how I look and who I am.

As a ghost writer, I blog daily about interior design and it keeps me so busy I don’t have the time to focus on my own interior design. I made time for it recently and purchased a new floral quilt for my bed and leaf print sheets to replace the dark red comforter and sheets I’ve used all winter. Though Spring has disappeared for the moment, I felt it necessary to create light and cheer in my bedroom. I so often write in my freelance blogs that the bedroom is a sanctuary and I truly believe that. I always find peace when I sit or lay upon my bed and when I close my eyes I am quickly lost in the dreams of my vivid imagination.

On weekend mornings my large bed is covered with open magazines and books as I research the topics I write about and scribble furiously in my spiral notebook. Those notes are later typed into an Excel spreadsheet as I create what I call my “interior design cheat sheet.” I am loving every moment of learning about interior design, decorating and architecture. My mind is a sponge and I’m trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible so it translates properly when I write. Printed books are amazing tools and digital media will never replace them in my world. Folding down pages and highlighting sentences is such a rewardingly tangible experience!

Perhaps what I do on my oversize bed is not as exciting as some people might have imagined but that doesn’t concern me. I am a responsible woman and my life might sound boring to some but to me it is fulfilling, gratifying and a true gift.