Tag Archives: adventures in homeownership

Looking Back on 2014

Hi, guys, did you miss me? I’m resurrecting the blog because I can never resist a yearly recap!

It’s that time of year again…time to reflect, regroup, and ponder.

Last year, I declared my intention to make more space for my writing (after a very busy 2012 and 2013, where lots of good things happened but writing fell by the wayside). 2014 was going to be the Year of Priorities, AKA Project: Making Space.

What I learned: Be careful how you word your resolutions!

What happened: “Making Space” came to pass in a much more literal way than I had intended. My partner and I started renovating our house (to be clear, we weren’t doing the work ourselves, but it did take up a LOT of brain cycles). We ended up with:

Refinished attic

  • a newly finished room (and revamped hallway and staircase) in the attic, which became an exercise room that’s getting used at least once a week, and also converts to a guest room
  • a functional second-floor kitchen (my partner’s parents live with us and do most of the cooking, but we wanted our own space for weekend food prep…there was already a second kitchen when we bought the house, but it needed appliances and more storage)
  • a landscaped backyard (to replace the former field of weeds), meaning we could enjoy our vegetable garden, add a couple of flower/shrub gardens, and spend time on our new back deck
  • a central air-conditioning system (which, among many other benefits, made the attic usable in summer!)
Deck, shed, Japanese maple to the left...all new! (Lilac to the right is not new.)

Deck, shed, Japanese maple to the left…all new. (Lilac to the right is not new.)

See? Making Space! :-P

This turned out to be good for the soul. We bought a nice set of patio furniture and it’s been wonderful to sit out on the deck — it needs some decor and privacy touches, but already it makes me feel a bit like I’ve got a country cottage in the city. Since I crave nature, the wilder the better, this is an excellent start.

Patio retreat in the making...

Patio retreat in the making…

I’ve also had fun adding flowers and shrubs to my repertoire after three years of vegetable gardening (details here and here). And between the deck and the second kitchen, we’ve been able to throw a couple of house parties — new territory for us, and an area we’re not very comfortable in yet, but hey, growth requires stretching, right?

Old-fashioned hydrangea, in memory of my grandmother.

Old-fashioned hydrangea, in memory of my grandmother.

What did not happen: Writing.

Okay, some writing did happen, but nowhere near as much as I’d hoped.

  • Wrote somewhere around 35K words, and almost all of it got edited and/or either published with Turtleduck Press or submitted elsewhere (with no results…yet)
  • Wrote and published the last two installments of Still Waters Run Deep (a fantasy serial) as TDP freebies, and started tweaking the serial to turn it into a coherent 10K story but did not finish
  • Wrote and published “The Raja and the Madman” (a longish fantasy short story) in the Under Her Protection anthology from TDP
  • Wrote 15K on draft 2 of a YA SF novel for NaNoWriMo (but had to quit because of wrist problems — see below) and tried to continue draft 2 of a YA fantasy novel but didn’t get very far
  • Wrote 2 more short stories (one historical fantasy, one Gothic) that haven’t appeared anywhere…yet…and 3 flash fiction pieces — the third of which is now up at TDP
  • Edited two TDP releases, Under Her Protection and Even the Score by KD Sarge

Under Her Protection edited by Siri Paulson

In part, the lack of writing was due to a health scare, with tendonitis in both wrists in September and cropping up again in November. I’ve been doing some preventative stuff, but I have a feeling that’s going to need more focus in January.

In travel/vacation news, I had:

  • a trip to India (again — but just for two weeks this time)
  • a trip to the Canadian Rockies (to go hiking with my siblings, which was fabulous)
  • a couple of lovely staycations
  • some weekends out of town to go contra dancing (as dancing expanded to take on a bigger role in my life…we’ll see where it goes from here!)

Looking ahead…

I’m wondering if the wrist issues are trying to tell me something about writing. More about that in a future post. More about that here (tl;dr I’m thinking very hard about what I want out of writing, because it’s been a struggle for a while). I’m not one for hard deadlines, so I’m still mulling over my intentions for 2015.

Also coming up on the blog: reading roundup for 2014…and maybe an SF&F movie recap, if there’s interest.

Your turn! How did your 2014 go? What’s ahead for you in 2015?

ROW80: End of Round 2

Aaand that’s it for this Round of Words in 80 days! The next one begins July 7, so until then I will not be updating on Sundays. Instead, maybe I’ll start blogging on a day that is *gasp* not Sunday, about things other than what’s going on with me.

With that said, here’s this week’s recap…

Writing

My short story is now on its third edit. I got the rest of the critiques back on Thursday, so I’m working to incorporate the best of the suggestions and make the story more awesome. This is the last round of content edits — in a few days I’m sending it off for copyediting. A few final tweaks, and it’ll be ready for release as part of the new Turtleduck Press anthology on August 1!

In between, I’ve been doing critiques, and will be busy with that for a while. But I’m not standing still on my own writing — I’m going to submit a story to a contest before the end of June, and we’ll see where that goes.

Exercise

This week I did:

  • 7.3 km (4.5 miles) of walking in 3 sessions
  • 1 session of stair-climbing

Umm…oh dear.

I did discover that my favourite science fiction and fantasy bookstore, Bakka Phoenix, is close enough to my office for a lunch hour walk there and back, if I don’t dawdle too much among the lovely, lovely books. Not only that, but the walk itself is pleasant, with wide sidewalks and lots of shade. I foresee a problem.

Home Improvement

Still waiting to get the shrubs in — they’ll be delivered tomorrow. In the meantime, we’ve bought some patio furniture, which is also getting delivered this week. Still haven’t gone for a load of perennials…tomorrow night, I hope.

In other words, our backyard is going to look a whole lot better in the next week!

The vegetable garden is coming along nicely. We’ve started eating the greens and herbs — arugula, chicory, basil, mint, cilantro — and let me tell you, it feels pretty neat. It’ll be a while until we are harvesting vegetables (northern gardening, you know…), but I’m seeing tiny green tomatoes, and flowers on the bell peppers and acorn squash. Another month or so and things will be very exciting around here.

ROW80 Recap

To go back to the beginning for a minute…

This round my goals included:

  • weekly reports on my Year of Making My Living Space Better
  • weekly reports on exercise progress
  • 1.5 hours a week of writing (broadly defined to include editing and outlining)

The first two goals were easy, and probably helped with mindfulness. The third? I missed it on 3 weeks and hit it on 8 weeks, including several where I blew the goal away — there were two weeks where I hit 6 hours, and three weeks where I passed 3 hours. I set that goal deliberately low, so I’m pleased to have crushed it on multiple weeks.

According to ROW80 rules, you get a break between rounds, so I’m not going to set any goals for between now and July 7. I’ll be busy critiquing anyway. But once those critiques are done, watch out!

And you, my faithful readers…watch this space for a larger variety of blog posts in the coming weeks. I hope you’ll stick around.

Your turn! If you were doing ROW80, how did this round go? If not, well, we’re almost halfway through the year…how is this year going for you?

 

Shrubs, Shorts, and Soccer

Can’t believe this ROW80 is almost over! I’m only checking in once a week, so that means only one more check-in after today. How’d that happen?

So here’s my penultimate update. (Ha. It’s not every day that you get to use the word penultimate….)

Writing

That short story I finished last week has come back from its first two readers with good reviews (and good suggestions for improvement). I’m running it by my critique group this week, so I’ll shortly have lots more good suggestions to think about and incorporate as appropriate.

Other than that, the rest of this month will be all about critiquing other people’s stuff — I have several lined up. That’ll keep me busy on the writing front. I don’t expect to get much further on my own stuff until July, but maybe I’ll blog more to compensate. That storytelling addiction, you know….

Exercise

This week I did:

  • 1 hour of yoga
  • 2 hours of contra dancing
  • 1 general workout session (half an hour)
  • 2 sessions of stair-climbing
  • 7.1 km (4.4 miles) of walking (3 sessions)
  • and a little bit of gardening, not really enough to count

Okay, still not where I need to be for hiking in the Rockies, but better than last week, and getting closer!

Home Improvement

We finally bought shrubs! Hydrangeas, yellow “carpet” roses, blue hibiscus, and a white pearl bush. And one tree, a Japanese maple — LOVE those, can’t quite believe I get to own one. Still awaiting delivery from the garden centre, though, so it’ll be another week or so before they get in the ground. I can’t wait. I’ve spent so much time over the last few weeks looking at gorgeous plants, it’ll be great to finally have some.

We also planted a few more vegetables:

  • raspberries (two kinds, red and black) — they won’t produce fruit this year though
  • hot peppers
  • and more bell peppers (apparently MIL didn’t realize we had four plants already…good thing we all like bell peppers!)

Grow, little vegetables, grow! Yes, I’ve started talking to my plants. I guess I’ve got the gardening bug, haven’t I?

Now I’m mulling over perennials, with the help of the landscaping program. Any recommendations? I like blue and purple, and maybe something to complement the dark red leaves of the Japanese maple….

In other news, it’s World Cup season (soccer to us North Americans, AKA football in the rest of the world). In our neighbourhood, that means much honking and cheering. I’m not much of a sports fan — hell, Canada doesn’t even have a team playing — but I can always tell when the game’s over and who won!

Finally, Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. Mine is no longer with us, so last year I wrote this for him: Watching Movies With My Dad. If you’re near your dad, and on good terms with him, give him a hug for me?

How about you? Are you watching the World Cup? What’s your favourite tree? Where is your dad today?

ROW80: All the Things are Moving

Here’s this week’s ROW80 update!

Writing

This week I was racing to finish a short story, and it’s done! 6 hours this week, which is a rarity these days. The second draft is 6500 words, up 1500 from the first draft, and I’m finally happy with it.

It’s slated to be published in a new Turtleduck Press anthology. A few people will be reading it this month, but the rest of you will have to wait until the anthology is published on August 1. *evil grin*

Exercise

I’m continuing to ease back into my exercise regime, such as it is. This week I did 1 hour of yoga, one session of stair climbing, and some gardening, and walked 4.6 km (not counting the bits of walking I do during my commute, 5 or 10 minutes at a time).

I’ve gotta step it up, though. My goal is to go hiking in the Rockies in August with my (fitter) siblings, and I’m a long way from being fit enough for that. Two months to go….

Home Improvement

This week I’ve been doing a lot of research on shrubs and trees (because, uh, that’s how I roll). We have several garden beds that are blank slates, which is a bit daunting because I’ve never tried flower gardening before. So I bought some books, visited a garden centre and took notes, bought a landscaping program to play with help with designing, and have been doing a ton of Internet research.

(Researching plants, it turns out, is like fractals — it opens out infinitely. I know Internet research is like that normally, but this is even more so. Why? Because you do all this research, finally pick a plant that you like and that seems to fit your needs, and then you discover that it has 10 million varieties of different sizes, colours, and growing habits, so you have to research all those too. Or is that just me?)

 

We still have no actual plants in the ground, but that should change shortly. Once we’ve got the shrubs in, then we can get on to the perennials…!

Here’s what we’ve put in the vegetable garden:

  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • acorn squash
  • basil
  • several other herbs (not sure exactly what, my MIL planted them)
  • zucchini (seeds)
  • carrots (seeds)
  • cucumber (seeds — just planted today)
  • arugula (seeds — accidentally planted the zucchini over top, but the arugula have a head start and are already coming up…)

…and we still have a bit more space, so we might add a few more things before calling it quits.

How was your week?

 

Gardening and Gaiman

Just a few quick notes today.

First, I’m part of a monthly book club on Twitter. This month we’re reading Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which has just come out in paperback. (In previous months we’ve read Patricia C. Wrede’s Thirteenth Child and Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock.) We start the read-along and discussion on June 20, and you’re invited — just use the hashtag #20reads!

Second, I’m over at Turtleduck Press talking about my latest “ooh, shiny” obsession. Last year, you may remember, it was vegetable gardening. Well, that’s still there, but now I’ve added…drumroll please…flowers. A snippet:

I have to admit I didn’t anticipate this when the subject of buying a house first came up between my life partner and me. At the time we were living in a generic high-rise apartment building. I envisioned purchasing a lovely old house with history and personality, with enough space for us each to claim a separate office room. Location was important. Public transit was important.

A garden didn’t really enter into our priorities, or even our thoughts, beyond “oh yeah, we’ll have to mow our lawn.”

We ended up with all those things, PLUS a large urban yard with nothing in it. 1250 square feet of fertile soil*, almost twice the size of the one-bedroom apartment we’d lived in for years. Blank slate, wheeeeeee!

Read the rest at Turtleduck Press.

Editorial note: And then it became a giant field of weeds until two weeks ago when we finally caved and put down sod over most of it, but never mind that. We still have more garden than we know what to do with….

Your turn! What’s up with you?

 

Back in the Saddle

Hi all! I’m back from my vacation / Internet hiatus (more about that soon…) and eager to get back into regular writing, blogging, and other ROW80 goals.

Here’s what’s been going on…

Writing

In my last post, I talked about blowing a deadline and being badly stalled. Home renos and trip planning didn’t help. I’m pulling out of that slump now, but I don’t have momentum yet. Here’s hoping the renewed creativity continues!

To be more specific: I spent 6 hours writing last week while on a working holiday, and wrote most of a 5000-word short story. Finally! That’s the first thing I’ve finished since, oh, January. (To be fair, since then I’ve done part of a novel edit and made several attempts at a different short story.)

This past week I went back to work, so my writing time logged has dropped again. I hit just over 3 hours, finished the story and started the second draft.

Exercise

Vacation for me often means exercise is sporadic. I went swimming a couple of times, but that’s about it.

In the week since I’ve been back, though, I’ve done 30 minutes of yoga, some gardening, a whole afternoon and evening of contra dancing, and more gardening. Back on track!

Renovations

The deck/shed combo is finished! It looks great. Now to fill it with patio furniture and hanging plants and and and… That’s it for renovations this year, thank goodness.

My attention is now turning to the front and back yards. We have new sod, a vegetable patch, and several new plots — where we’ll be growing flowers for the first time ever (we’ve only been homeowners for two years). This past week we filled up 4/5 of the vegetable plot. We’ll be doing the rest in the coming week, and then it’s on to the flowers!

How was your May? What are your goals for June?

Tapped Out and Outta Here

Updates from last week, ROW80 and otherwise…

In good news, my loved one who was in hospital is fine now. Huge relief.

In other good news, I’ve sort of fallen into co-creating a book club on Twitter. This month we’re doing Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s a Tam Lin retelling. Sound like your kind of thing? Use the hashtag #20reads to join in! (And by the way, I’m @Siri_Paulson over there.)

In bad news, I’ve blown an anthology deadline. Not just any anthology, either — I’m the chief editor as well as one of the submitters — and my story was due 12 days ago. I started the story in good time, but to say it’s not cooperating is an understatement. In retrospect, I should have listened to Ripley. You know,

Nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

Yeah. I’ve tried every possible angle. There might still be a good story in there, but if there is, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t fit the anthology theme, and I can’t shoehorn it in no matter what I try. I think I’m gonna have to write something entirely different…and fast. (And yes, I should have made that decision weeks ago.)

That’s bad. But the worse part?

This is the second short story this year that I’ve run into the ground. I can’t remember the last time that’s happened. And my novel edit-in-progress has just…stalled.

Maybe I’m too busy. I know I have trouble when there are too many projects on the go, and this year has been full of non-writing projects (notwithstanding my declaring it the Year of Making Space…) that have taken up a lot of extra brain cells and a certain amount of creativity.

On the bright side: my house now has some awesome upgrades and will shortly have an awesome backyard. It’s kinda nice to pay attention to the place I’m living in for a change. Reminds me that I own it, you know? (Well, the bank does, but I hold the deed, so there.)

On the not-so-bright side: I never meant my house to become awesome at the expense of my writing.

I badly need to make space for real.

But that will have to wait until I’m back from my hiatus. When June hits, watch out….

ROW80

Quick updates:

Writing: I spent 4.5 hours last week trying to make that damn story work. It’s not stalled for lack of time.

Exercise: Started walking again now that the weather is finally nice, went folk dancing on Saturday night, and celebrated the season’s first weeding session on Sunday. Yay?

Renovations: The deck is proceeding apace. It’s going to have two small sheds with a roofed-over space in between. Currently trying to figure out the best way to add shade to the rest of the deck — I like deep shade, don’t like extendable awnings, want something that will sort of tie in with the roofed section, am not sure if I want lattice with climbing plants (because hey, we’ve never done this before)…yeah, problems. Oh, and the backyard will shortly have sod instead of weeds!

 

Two-week blog hiatus commences as of now. In the meantime, tell me…

Your turn! What do you do when the writing is just not coming?