Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The One Where Life Got in the Way

So, I've  been a bit distracted for the past week. I set up my blog with some scheduled posts, but haven't had a chance to sit down and read comments. And the weird thing is, the comments don't show up in my e-mail until AFTER I post them. Strange. SO, sorry if you have tried to comment and it didn't appear in a timely manner. All comments have been now read and taken care of. Thank you for your interest!

Why am I so busy? Story time.
Once upon a time, 3 years ago, my family purchased a home. In the bathroom, there was a tiny little spot above the light switch, perhaps an inch in size where the paint had been peeled off the wall. Just this little hole. I picked at it a little, making the spot about 4 inches across, in a sort of circle. I like to pick at things, and the paint came off fairly easily. My husband said, "Don't do that." So I stopped.

Fast forward to now. I went in the bathroom about 2 or 3 weeks ago, and turning on the light, I noticed that the circle of missing paint was no longer a circle. It had branched out into a weird shape. It was definitly bigger, to be sure. Now, I was curious, because I had restrained myself, and hadn't touched it in all this time. I asked my two boys if they had picked at it. Telling me it wasn't them, and believing them (lying isn't currently a problem in our home), my mind turned to the only other option, however unlikely it may be. So I asked my husband, "Did you pick at the paint in the bathroom?" To which he replied, "I'm thinking it might be time to paint."

 --A little back story. When we moved in, the upstairs bathroom did not have a shower. It had only the bathtub. Our basement bathroom does have a shower, but it's a metal, military-style shower (super small) that has been painted (that's right PAINTED--on the INSIDE!) several times. This made showering tricky, as the paint in the shower began to remove itself when water was applied to the surface. Pretty hard to avoid, when showering.
SO, father-in-law offered to tile and plumb a shower for us in the bathtub upstairs. In the process, a bit of paint around the edges of where the tile was put in was chipped off. When my father-in-law first noticed this, he asked, "Are you going to paint when this is done?" "Of course," we replied. He was relieved because that made his job a bit easier (not having to worry about the paint). And, he did a fantastic job. So, shortly after moving in our lovely new home, we now have a working shower/tub upstairs and a paint-peeling shower, that we have chose to ignore for the time being, downstairs.
But the upstairs bathroom has never been painted. Time, means, desire, all these have delayed the lovely project, and what's a bad paint job, when the shower works, right?

So, back to my original story. So, here I have found that my husband had started peeling away at this little hole. So then I picked at it a bit. Each time either of us went in there, the wall looked a bit different. One day, after a shower, I returned to the bathroom to dry my hair. The bathroom was still a little steamy, and I just grabbed a little piece of paint and was surprised to find that the humidity in the room made the paint come off in considerably larger pieces! Suddenly, it's a competition to see who can get the most paint off. By the end of the week, we had pulled off paint from the doorway to the edge of the shower.

In these pictures, we have taken down the towel rod and the mirror that was hanging on this wall. Because, now, it's time to get rid of the rest of the paint. It's not like we can just sand the edges and call it good. But the paint pulled off so easily by hand, I figured a few paint scraping tools would speed up the process and clear the wall in no time. Very funny. Turns out, the paint scraper (like a flat, metal spatula, sort of) mostly just chipped away the paint, rather than getting under it and loosening huge chunks like I imagined. The other scraper I bought has a sharp blade that scrapes the paint, but it needs just the right amount of pressure to get it right, and sometimes it scraped too deep. 

Finished Wall!
Saturday the 18th, I spent about 2 hours, with very little progress. So I put away my tools and made dinner instead. Not yet feeling discouraged (after all, this had to come down somehow) Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were spent clearing the bulk of the wall. In fact on Tuesday, I went from the bottom of the 'hole' to the floor, and Wednesday I did from the top to the ceiling. The thing that made those go much quicker (but still taking several hours each day) was that I remembered on Monday night that (duh!) it peels better after a shower! So, each day, I delayed my shower until after I took my son to school and then(keeping the bathroom door closed while I hurried to put on my working clothes) started right in while the bathroom was still moist. It came off SO much easier.

Thursday I spent the morning clearing the rest of the spaces that I didn't finish on Wednesday, and then started to pull down the wallpaper border that had been painted over. Last Friday, I finished off the wall paper border. Now we are ready for the next step. (Sanding, filling holes, removing cabinets) Hurray! We are only clearing one wall, because the paint around the cabinets on the other wall isn't as urgent to remove. In other words, we didn't pick at it over there.

We are also going to get rid of both wall cabinets. I am opting for a wider medicine cabinet with 3 mirrored doors instead of keeping the two existing cabinets. That way, I don't have to rehang the mirror that used to reside on the big wall that I cleared. (I can see the back of my hair with the side mirrors on the new cabinet!) We are also getting a new light fixture because the current one is attached to the medicine cabinet. And the wall space over the sink and toilet will feel a little cleaner. I don't know what color we are painting yet. I'm going to pick up some paint samples this week. And we still have to deal with the electrical.
But I'm really excited about all this. And now you know why there was no Bradbury Friday last week (sorry!) and a lateness in the comments. In addition to the bathroom, I also had PTA stuff and 2 Young Women activities to supervise. All in a week. Fun stuff!

PS, the Book Club has a bit more time to finish the Scarlet Pimpernel. I have been delayed in my reading time. I may have to re-learn how to read.

ThePianoGuys: Beethoven's 5 Secrets

I love this video. There is just such enjoyment on Steven Sharp Nelson's face as he plays (in every video, really). And could you imagine being in the orchestra that he played with? What a neat experience.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bradbury Friday: The Veldt

Today's story is the first in a collection called The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury said, "What if is the operative term for many of these stories [found in the book]. ...What if  you could create a world within a room, that forty years later would be dubbed the first Virtual Reality, and introduced a family to that room where its walls might operate on the psyches and deliver forth nightmares? I built the room on my typewriter and let my family prowl. By noon the lions had leaped off the walls and my children were having tea at the finale."

In the book, there are 18 stories illustrated on a man's skin. Tattooed there, but they come to life and each tell their story. The first is called The Veldt.

Meet George and Lydia Hadley. They live in a fully automated house. The kitchen cooks for you. You have machines that bathe you, tie your shoes, comb your hair, brush your teeth. Chairs sooth and rock you. Your bed can lull you to sleep. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? An addition to the house, is the nursery. It is that 'virtual reality' room Bradbury talked about. Here, the children, Peter and Wendy, can play anything they want. Aladdin and his Magic Lamp? Done. Take a jaunt in Wonderland? Easy. How about China? No problem.

Well, as our story opens, Mrs. Hadley is concerned that there is something wrong with the nursery. They go see, and it's hot. There before them is the African veldt. Vultures fly over head. In the distance there are lions, picking clean their kill. They seem too real. And too gruesome for children. Mr. Hadley tries to change the room. But it won't leave Africa.

They call in their psychologist to look at it. He thinks they need to shut down the whole house. The children have been spoiled. "The room has become a channel toward--destructive thoughts, instead of a release away from them." So what happens when Mr. Hadley tries to shut down the room, move the family out of the house for a while?

With technology today, it seems that we as a people may be lazier than a few generations before us. Children may feel entitled, and think that instant gratification is normal. But could we ever let it go as far as this story does? While I'd love to have my house scrub it's floors and clean the dishes for me, I don't think I'd ever want my house to do everything for me. Where's the satisfaction in a job well done? What about creating a meal, and going, "Oh yeah, I made that!" At first glance, a house like the Hadleys' sounds amazing. Until there's nothing left for you to do...

The Radio Drama (available for purchase at is just a little different than the print story. But the main essence is there and the ending is the same chilling conclusion. I recommend reading it first, and then give it a listen. It will give you chills, and something to think about.

My Dad found another version of the story, done as a radio drama in 1955. It is available at X Minus One Radio. It is not the same version as the Bradbury 13 (done in 1984) that I listened to, but it's pretty good too. Just click on over, and the audio should be at the top of the page. It's free to listen! Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The PianoGuys: Just the Way You Are

Yesterday being Valentine's Day, I thought this beautiful love song was appropriate.

And because I like it, here is the original.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Club: The Scarlet Pimpernel

If you've checked my blog this week, you may be confused by the date at the top of this post. But I've been busy, and it's my blog, so I make the rules. It was intended to be written on Monday, so I'm posting it as if it were. So there.

I have decided that I'm going to call one Book Club book per month, hopefully listed in the first week of the month. I will try to give about 2 weeks to allow readers to finish up, and I'll give an update if I find that it will be taking me longer than the 2 weeks so you aren't scrambling to finish. Except that you won't have to really. That's the beauty of online book clubs, you don't have to read the discussion post until you're good and ready.

This month I'd like to read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. Want to know her full name? Ready? It is Baroness Emmuska Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara Orczy. Could you imagine filling out paper work requiring your 'full name'? What a mouthful! She was known as Emma as a young girl. Why Baroness? Her father was Baron Felix Orczy, a Hungarian aristocrat, a musician and composer.

A few fun facts: Orczy wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel in five weeks. When she couldn't find a publisher, she and her husband, Montagu Barstow, rewrote it as a play. The play was produced in 1903 and two years later she published the novel. I guess, for some people, you have to see it before you love it!

Orczy wrote more than 60 books, many of them detective and crime solving stories, and published her autobiography, Links in the Chain of Life, just before her death in 1947.

The Scarlet Pimpernel was a huge hit in both print and on stage, was made into a movie, and is still running on stages (usually as a musical) everywhere. (It is also available as an eBook!) I saw the musical version of the play at our local community theatre and LOVED it. We went on closing night, and I wished that we'd gone sooner because I wanted to see it again! It is a fabulous mystery full of silliness and fun. When my husband and I were shopping for books for Christmas, I saw this and said that we must have it (although mine isn't as pretty as the copy you see on my blog). I hope you enjoy reading it. I look forward to discussing this in a few weeks!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bradbury Friday: The Ravine

This is a story that I have always liked, although I'm not sure why. I suppose I liked to have a good scare.  This story is a real thriller. Found in Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, on pages 174-194 (with the conclusion found in the conversation of the neighborhood boys on pages 195-198), is The Ravine.

Francine has walked to Lavinia's house to pick her up for a movie. They are off next to pick up Helen, but first they have to cross the ravine. A neighbor calls out, asking where they're off to, what with the 'Lonely One' out on the loose. Francine tries to convince Lavinia to stay in for the night, but Lavinia laughs it off. "It's early. Lonely One won't be out till late." Lavinia is the only of the three women who lives on this side of the ravine, and is the only one who will have to walk home across the ravine, alone.

Unfortunately, as Lavinia and Francine cross the ravine on the way to town, they come across the body of Elizabeth Ramsell, who'd been missing. They talk to the police, and after the questioning, this has sealed it for Francine. She just wants to go home and bolt the door. But Lavinia persists. The movie will do them good, make them laugh, forget. So they go collect Helen and head to the theatre. Lavinia doesn't seem bothered at all. But then, after both Helen and Francine are dropped off after the movie, Lavinia still has to cross the ravine.

In the introduction to Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury says he used word-association to put out a story each day, adding characters to give it meaning and life. In an hour or two a story would be completed. Sometimes the ideas came from a memory. "I wanted to call back what the ravine was like, especially on those nights when walking home late across town, after seeing Lon Chaney's delicious fright The Phantom of the Opera, my brother Skip would run ahead and hide under the ravine-creek bridge like the Lonely One and leap out and grab me, shrieking, so I ran, fell, and ran again, gibbering all the way home. That was great stuff."
Bradbury continues, "Was there a Lonely One? There was, and that was his name. And he moved around at night in my home town when I was six years old and he frightened everyone and was never captured. Is the ravine real and deep and dark at night? It was, it is. I took my daughters there a few years back, fearful that the ravine might have gone shallow with time. I am relieved and happy to report that the ravine is deeper, darker, and more mysterious than ever. I would not, even now, go home through there after seeing The Phantom of the Opera."

A chilling tale, born from memories of Ray Bradbury, The Ravine is a good scare, one to get your heart pumping, your imagination flowing, and make you jump if someone interrupts you. The NPR radio broadcast is a great telling of this story, and is available to purchase on as an mp3 download.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

ThePianoGuys: Cello Wars

This is a video I was reluctant to post. I think it is a little cheesy. I love their version of the music. It's fantastic. I really enjoy the sound. But I don't really love the video. The first time through, it gave me a laugh. Then my boys wanted to watch it over and over and over. Basically every time I was looking at something PianoGuys, they wanted me to play 'Cello Wars.' Let's face it. It appeals to the kid in us. But the grown up in me got a little tired of it.

Then one Saturday afternoon (after having seen 'Cello Wars' about a hundred times), my oldest son said, "Mom, can we watch 'Star Wars' today?" The big thing about this is that my kids had never seen 'Star Wars.' Don't get me wrong. We own all 6 episodes, plus a couple of DVD's full of 'extras.' All their cousins watch it. Their friends talk about it at school. But they have never shown the desire to watch it. I have offered to put it on for them on several occasions, and they refused, worried it might be 'too scary,' or that they just weren't 'old enough' to watch it (regardless of my explaining that it is rated PG). So this time, when they were asking, I said yes. We watched 'A New Hope' together.

C-3PO and R2-D2 with another C-3PO
Like any kid watching a movie with plot lines and dialog between adults, my kids played with their toys during the movie, looking up when it sounded exciting. They didn't really follow the story, and they probably didn't watch most of the movie. But here is what did come from it. While watching, they played with their TRIO blocks. With inspiration from the movie, they created their own replicas from 'Star Wars.'
Two Light Sabers and a 'Jedi Training Ball'
They each built their own C-3PO. So they both get to pose with R2-D2.

What 'Star Wars' collection is complete without a light saber or two? I asked them why they made their Light Sabers red. They said "Because that's the color we have the most of." Although, the Saber is not much longer than the handle. I'm sure they could have switched them. But you just don't stomp on an artist's creation.
Two 'Storm Troopers'

Of course there have to be Storm Troopers. This is what they came up with. I think they look rather menacing.


Here is a close-up of R2-D2. I think this was a clever little design. Unfortunately there were only enough wheels to make one. So we only have one R2 unit. But he sure is cute!

And now, for the video that spawned all the 'Star Wars'-ing in my house. Please enjoy. And may the Force be with you.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bradbury Friday: The Happiness Machine

Ray Bradbury writes his stories by selecting a word or a memory and creating a story around it. Dandelion Wine is a what Bradbury called "my book-of-stories-pretending-to-be-a-novel." It is a collection of these writings that all come from the same town, from much of his memories of childhood and growing up. Of the book, Bradbury says, "Here is my celebration, then, of death as well as life, dark as well as light, old as well as young, smart and dumb combined, sheer joy as well as complete terror written by a boy who once hung upside down in trees, dressed in his bat costume with candy fangs in his mouth, who finally fell out of the trees when he was twelve and went and found toy-dial typewriter and wrote his first 'novel'" (from the introduction to DW). I recommend reading the whole of it. But, if you haven't the time, and are merely looking for a couple great stories, then there are two in this book that are part of Bradbury 13. The first, found on pages 57-69, is called The Happiness Machine. (We will discuss the second next week.) It is also available in a book of 100 of his stories, aptly named The Stories of Ray Bradbury.

Leo Auffmann is a builder of machines. In Dandelion Wine, the town knows him as such. A young boy suggests that maybe he should build a Happiness Machine. Leo, walking away, says, "Maybe I will..." And build it, he does. Leo goes to his garage waiting for something to just jump out and tell him where to start. Starting with orange paint, he works continually for ten nights and days, exhausting himself, and neglecting his family. And then, he presented to his family, The Happiness Machine. Here you can see Paris! The Pyramids! Go to Rome! Sights, sounds, smells... How about dancing? It has that too! Is this Happiness?
Leo Auffmann was searching for the perfect happiness. He wanted to harness what makes a person content. Can it be put in a machine? In a jar to keep forever? Or is there more to happiness than that? Leo finds out that perhaps his true happiness is there, sitting in the front window, over in the kitchen...

What is it that makes you happy? Do you blame others or circumstances for your lack of happiness? Or do you embrace the things that you have and let them make you happy? Leo was so busy looking for that escape, he forgot to look for what was right in front of him all along. I'm glad to say that he found it at last. But many people forget to be happy. The Happiness Machine is a good reminder to slow down for just a moment and relish in the Happiness that is there, if you just look.

And don't forget to check out the audio at! They really aren't paying me to promote it. That's just how I heard these stories first. It's been really gratifying to find that the original print stories are the same as the radio stories I heard as a kid. Fantastic radio drama.