Friday, May 25, 2012

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word

And the skies are not cloudy all day.
the flats in summer

As you can see from above, I’ve started playing with Instagram on my HTC Sensation (even thought it froze the while phone the first time I installed it.) I love photos and have just been posting everything on my Flickr account. I like and dislike the look of some uber-hip shots I’ve seen made by Instagram so this was just a way to try out while I started my Missus P. On the Move companion site. A lot of the photos I take end up just on Facebook and they don’t get directly connected to the site so I thought this would be a quick and easy way to post my random pictures while I’m out and about doing stuff. The above picture was taken while I was sitting outside, enjoying the warm weather.

It’s a beautiful Friday morning here. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the birds are singing in the garden. It’s such a nice place to live and I’m so lucky I have a quiet, relaxing, pleasant place so sit here and do my typing.

However, it’s been no secret that we’ve had issues with the place lately. Not only have we dealt with random students renting the flat upstairs but we also have a beauty salon being run across the hall. Now to most people who are in charge of apartment buildings they have certain rules and guidelines that we all have to abide by, especially when it concerns the general balance and quality of life for their tenants. It isn’t always the case though and we had an interesting run-in last night.

As we had just started watching The Fantastic Mr. Fox at 9PM, Steve got an email on his phone from our building manager (or overseer as they’re called). The email said that since we hadn’t responded to their last email they were forced to contact the committee about our keeping crates in the hallway.”  Yes, we have crates in order to keep Mary Kay, the beautician, from adding her tacky decorations to our side of the hallway but the previous email and committee reference – no clue what that’s about.

Steve decides to call instead of email and the manager promptly gets upset because “it’s 9:20!” so he’s calling too late. We had just been sent an email about being told on by some alleged committee, of course we’re going to talk to you immediately. So the complaint, according to the manager, was that our grocery store crates are too heavy for the cleaning lady to move each time she vacuums. Fine. I can understand that completely and if there were a problem, I would have gladly moved them for her. But did we know this? No. Are we the only ones with large items in the hallway? Of course not. Steve explained that our crates are our way of keeping Mary Kay from adding even more of her 30-odd pieces of crazy decor. She had already put stuff all downstairs until the new neighbours moved in, then she promptly stuffed it right back in our hallway.

But these facts fell on deaf ears. Building manager was adamant that Mary Kay with her big plants, flower box and other random lawn decorations wasn’t an issue at all and it was a communal area and she had every right to have that stuff there. But our crates? No. Eventually this discussion elevated by the manager’s arguing how we were going to have to talk to two other neighbours in “the committee” and Mary Kay ourselves because our crates are bad but a beauty salon is perfectly fine. After trying to reason these concerns with her, the manager said we were always “tit for tat” with them (um…who sent us the email?) Steve asked the manager they thought we felt about the whole thing. The manager’s answer, “I don’t care how you feel.” Steve, the most polite person I’ve ever met in my life, said, “Well, that’s all I need to know then,” and hung up.

While I find the whole situation ridiculous and shocking, Steve assured me that this kind of unprofessionalism has been going on since he bought the place. He’s let them know about the drunk kids upstairs and their parties where someone tried to break the back door down. He also told them about the fighting in the common areas, and the noise that disrupted everyone, etc. but the manager just blew it off. Apparently they think we’re just complainers who make a big deal out of nothing and they simply don’t want to hear any of our concerns. Even when we had the ordeal with the pipes getting unblocked, it was our responsibility to organize it and then, once it was finished, the manager wrote us an email saying how since we didn’t do it earlier, it was our fault that the downstairs neighbour had water damage that their insurance couldn’t cover. What the heck kind of business sense is that?

The committee will have to be spoken to eventually too and I’ll make sure to mention what kind of reactions we get from the building manager. I wonder if the committee are neighbours whom I’ve spoken to before, including the cleaning lady. I have no idea what their, or the building manager’s functions are in this place, quite honestly. I’ve seen the  managers mow the lawn, paint fences, plant flowers, and such as that. They let the back yard gate stay broken for months (until someone strangers were using our yard as a shortcut to the street), eventually fixed the loose step (which is broken now again) and use to organize neighbourhood meetings (but they stopped that two years ago.) They don’t keep extra keys to the flats, or the garages. They aren’t sure who lives where or if they’re renters or owners (apparently they thought we rented the place or something.) It’s a very strange situation to say the least.

Anyway, as I write this, Mary Kay is in the hallway, undoubtedly dancing with glee that she got her way (we still think she and the manager are in co-hoots because Mary Kay moves those crates daily to vacuum before her clients show up.) We’re planning on putting some plants out there on our side just to even the balance before she gets any idea about putting another plastic high heel show planter next to our door or something. Meh, at least she got rid of that creepy mannequin head that was out there. The thing is – I had been completely not bothered by her or anyone else here lately. I thought everything was hunky-dory and in a peaceful order. Oh well, someone always tries to put more lemons into the lemonade, don’t they?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Driving and venturing out late

Get behind the wheel.

Two things of uniqueness happened last week. First, I started my driving lessons. Now, as you may well know already, I have driven in the United States for the past, what 20 years? I have driven in Florida that whole time, give or take a few visits to Ohio. I’ve driven an automatic except for the few manual shift lessons my Dad gave me on “little red” my grandparents Chevrolet Chevette. This means that, no, I can’t drive in the United Kingdom. I have my fancy learner’s permit and everything so I signed myself up to learn how to get my way around.

I thought what would trip me up the most was the natural instinct for me to be on the right side of the road. Honestly, since I was already oriented to the left side of the road, I understood that I had to stay in my lane. I also understood to stay away from the cars going the opposite way. So if you’re going to learn to drive on the opposite side of the street, my suggestion is to go out during the day when you can work with traffic. Otherwise, yeah, it would be confusing.

Since I’ve always driven an automatic, my issue was that now I couldn’t just pay attention to everything that was going on the road. I had to pay attention to the car and what I was doing with the car. This makes turns tricky. I have to slow down to 10 mph, see if anyone’s coming, change gears, drive on, etc. It really got me frustrated during my first go because I got overwhelmed with all the cars at the roundabout (and, let me tell you, in town at 4PM on a Friday, there were plenty of them) plus my understanding of what gear to shift in.

All in all I didn’t do too badly (or so my instructor, who was probably being very nice, told me.) I nudged a couple of curbs (remember, I’m on the opposite side of the road and the opposite side of the car – confusing!) I revved the engine too much and made that horrible stinky smell. (Sorry, car.) I stalled a bunch when I got panicky with all the little cars waiting on me to turn the dang corner (driving instructor said, “they’re behind you – don’t worry about them.”) But I did get up to 4th gear and was able to change gears okay even though I kept going a mere 20 mph (driving instructor kept telling me to go faster.)

Secondly, on Saturday night, Steve and I visited The Late Shows around town. From 7PM – 11PM the art galleries, library, museums and cinemas all had something different going on. We only saw a fraction of the events but going around in the sightseeing bus in the middle of the night around the city was so cool. We saw artists demonstrating their work process, people dressed up in costumes, modern dance performances, funky light shows, and just all around cultural fun. Highlight of the night – visiting the animals at Ouseburn Farm. There, I pet a rabbit named Dirk. I’m excited to go next year to see all the other places we missed. Our night was filled just by hitting a handful of places too.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Beautiful Blogger Award

I could get use to this each day.

I was honoured with a nomination for the Beautiful Blogger Award by Amelia Curzon. A million times, thank you for this honour. I appreciate it so much.

So, this is what happens when you’re nominated:

  • You write seven facts about yourself
  • You link to the blog of the person who nominated you
  • You link to seven bloggers whom you think deserve the award
  • You let those bloggers know they have been nominated

Seven Facts About Me:

  1. If we were to win the lottery, I’d want us to have a house in Hawaii. I’ve never been there but seeing pictures like the one above, I’m sure I could get use to living in a Polynesian Paradise quite easily.
  2. Once, when I was a little girl at Rockbridge Elementary School I had on my new pink sweat suit. During recess, first thing in the morning, I attempted to go across the monkey bars only to fall in a large puddle. I had to sit on newspapers over the radiator in the principal’s office until my Mom showed up with a change of clothes for me.
  3. The first time I ever left Ohio was when I was in sixth grade during our annual Washington D.C. trip.
  4. The first car I ever drove was my parents’ silver Pontiac.
  5. I start my U.K. driving lessons this week!
  6. If I were stranded on a desert island (as in living in Hawaii) I’d bring my husband, our cat, my parents, my laptop, my Canon camera, my HTC phone and my Kindle Fire. Wait, was I only supposed to bring three things?
  7. While my hometown is Logan, Ohio, I moved to Titusville, Florida when I was twelve and lived there (after some years back and forth to Orlando) until 2010 until I moved to Newcastle, England.

Who Has Nominated Me:

The very kind and lovely blogger herself, Amelia Curzon who’s blog is at:

My Links To Seven Bloggers Who Also Deserve The Award:

A Discount Ticket to Everywhere is another Blogathon 2012 participant – this month she’s blogging A-Zs about children’s literature translations.

Books YA Love is a librarian who received her degree from Texas, just as I did. Her blog is fun and fresh with plenty of reviews of dystopian and romance novels for teens.

My Worldly Obsessions is a beautiful blog with book reviews. We’ve had some insightful conversations about books lately too.

ScifiWriterMom has discussed books with me before and gave me the best suggestion I’ve had in a while with The Iron King Series.

She Started It such a smart, interesting writer that I even follow her on Facebook. I love seeing what links she has and her When Do You Write interview section.

Suzie Tullett has a book on sale at Waterstones – about Mods! How cool is that? I’m so impressed by this. She’s very nice and writes interesting blog posts too.

YA Book ShelfMelissa Montovani has one of the best young adult book blogs online. I’ve followed it for quite a while now and even used her blog for a project during my MLS program.

Again, thank you so much for nominating me. I appreciate it so much!

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

But everyone else likes it: Popularity vs. Quality

Hey you, get off of my cloud.
Only Mick has the moves!

Have you ever wondered why something is popular? Have you ever questioned the quality of something popular? Have you ever tried something that everyone else seems to be raving about, only to be disappointed? Of course you have. We all have. Why is that?

This morning Steve and I were discussing how the world is more accepting of crap these days. The more other people accept it, the more it becomes popular. Then the powers that be get the idea of, “well, lots of people liked this, so let’s rejig it and package it as something slightly different but the same.” They make money because people love the same crap.

Granted, we can’t argue taste. This is all about television shows, movies, music and books, of course. Plenty of people said they couldn’t stand Gilligan’s Island but it still stayed on television forever. I know that the argument is, “Well, I don’t want to think about it, I just enjoy it.” That’s fine but it makes me sad to know that quality books, movies, shows, and music aren’t even known about by some of these people who don’t want to think about it. I know people who have also thought I was in the wrong for not going along with the sheep-like following of a certain popular show. (I’ll give you a hint, it’s a competition and the one who wins year after year sounds just like the winner from the last season.)

We all have our guilty pleasures, as I mentioned in my last post about contemporary and classic books. I watch reality shows even though they aren’t good, quality shows. Even when I watch them I ask myself why I’m bothering but sometimes a little thoughtless fun in your entertainment decisions is good. But most of us know the difference. We may know things such as “Moves Like Jagger” is a terrible song that shames Mick’s good name, for example. We may also know that Twilight fan fiction is based on books that were called out by Stephen King himself as terrible. We could also know that a movie like Battleship is bound to be awful if it’s based on a board game. And I’m sure we all know that half of the stupid shows in prime time are bloody awful. Why, why do they still watch them?

But some people can read, listen to, or watch these for a cheap thrill. However, knowing that they aren’t “good” is the difference between those who go “this is the best book/show/song/band/movie ever.” No, no it’s not. You can enjoy it but it’s not “good.” Good connotes quality, effort, style, talent and creativity. I am not trying to demean anyone who likes music on Radio One or Hillybilly Handfishin’ (thank you, Joel McHale for reminding me what kind of crap the US television producers can create.) My hope is just that they give things that aren’t popular a second chance. Some good things are popular, of course, but the majority, not so much.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Contemporary or classic books?

Just a few of my books lying around. This is why I need a bookshelf.

Today I stumbled across the Guardian article, “Influence of classic literature on writers declining.” I understand what the author is saying. When I was in high school and college I learned all sorts of classical literature which I am eternally grateful for. However, now that I’m older and less patient, I am more happy with reading YA and contemporary literature.

I still need to write my book reviews for the last two books I read during my classic literature run. I haven’t done one of them because I just want to say, “this wasn’t my thing” even though everyone and their grandmother seems to love it. The word Steve used was “accessible.” With authors like Austen, the language gets in the way of the story for me. I enjoy it but it takes more work. Still, I am 100% behind reading the classics. Without knowing Shakespeare, for example, you can’t know how literature has evolved into what it is today.

Still, the ease of contemporary fiction is good for influence’s sake, as the article suggests. While not all of it is good or anything that I’d be interested in personally, the same has gone for classic books of the day when the sensationalist novels were full of drivel. It’s just a fact of literary heritage that best sellers are not always going to be quality books. That doesn’t mean we can’t read them for entertainment. I still like to watch reality shows from time to time even though I know they’re full of pretentious crap. But I digress.

Personally, I want a balance of classic to contemporary but lately my preference has been  leaning more into the modern fiction (and the books that were popular when I was a kid, as you can see in my photo.)

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Monday, May 14, 2012

I’m free to do what I want any `ol time

A stroll in the park.

While we’re on the subject of blogging, I’m curious about getting paid to blog. I use AdSense on my blogs and Amazon affiliate links but that’s the extent of it. I tried using HubPages before but I wasn’t convinced that it was worth it. There are tons of freelance blog sites out there (Squidoo, Helium, Yahoo Contributors, etc.) but with each site being picky about what pictures go where, I got tired of fighting them all. (I even had Yahoo refuse my article for using a copyrighted image – I used an image in their clip art gallery. Never figured that one out.)

When I’ve looked into finding freelancing jobs, it was a lot of bidding which meant the person who would work the hardest for the least amount of money got the job. I’ve also applied for jobs where they needed someone with a college degree and some expertise in a subject to write articles. They rejected my category of knowledge.

I’ve also heard that it’s more lucrative to just blog on various topics and use AdSense on your own blog. I’m still about writing the blog for personal enjoyment but when I hear about people making money from doing it, I’m just curious how (and how much you work for peanuts.)

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Bloggers, what do you use?

So many computers, so many blog platforms.
Aww, I <3 computers in libraries.

I’ve written plenty about blogging in the past, and I’m still interested in the whole topic. Usually I try to understand what makes people use Wordpress or Blogger. Personally, I use both but I keep my main page with

Still, I read time and time again that to be professional we shouldn’t use self-hosting and that Wordpress is where it’s at. The problem is, most people don’t have cash to throw away on domain names and proper hosting anymore. Most people are using Google during the day anyway and, I’d go as far as to say 9 out of 10 of my library/writer/bookwork Twitter friends use Blogger over Wordpress.

I do understand the notion of having a professional looking site and I am all for having a front-end site that links to the free hosted blogs on Blogger. I’ve seen plenty of well respected writers do it (plus have Tumblr accounts as well) so I don’t really see a problem with using something that takes a heck of a lot less time to get going.

I do love Wordpress and I’m glad they offer the free service now, even if I can’t play with all those nice widgets and apps. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go back to having a site set up with my own hosting and domain name as a professional site – in fact, I’m sure I will. For now I’ll just cross post between the free servers as I have been. Way easier.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

So what’s up with Facebook?

And no, I don't mean timeline. (I still don't understand why it's a surprise they everyone's profile changed. They said it over and over again that it would. FB must feel like a middle school teacher does -- you can say something twenty times, write it on the board and leave it for day's but they still don't pay attention...)

Anyway, I've been voicing my opinion on Twitter about how Facebook has been less than pleasant recently. It's a good thing that's gone sour and it has nothing to do with timeline but the people who update theirs. Yesterday I saw two of my friends who don't even know each other both comment on how Facebook is for fun and not negative, rude, mean, stupid crap. Amen, I said.

Now, we all get irritated and want to voice our opinion. That's fine. But social networking is not always the best platform for shouting political opinions and name calling.

Think of it this way, if you were in a high school reunion you'd be cordial to everyone when you first got together, right? Heck, you'd even be glad to see them. But now it’s as if the doors were locked and you’re stuck with those same people after a while, so you would show your true colours -- you notice theirs too.

But, remember, this is social networking. If you want to talk about how someone who doesn't agree with your views is an idiot, don't do it on a public page where your co-workers, family members, and church members will read it. Most of us aren't interested in getting together and bashing people over beliefs.

It's not just politics that have made me go, "Why did you post that?" I've seen people who do nothing but sell products (not that self promotion isn't good but have something to talk about too.) I've seen people talk about stuff that falls under the Too Much Information category (remember, this is public, guys) and just plain stupid things like "My kid can kick your kid's butt" type of comments.

With that said, my statement is, as it always has been with Facebook: It's fun! It's a game! Most of us just want to keep in touch with our friends from the old neighbourhood, distant relatives, and former co-workers. FB is what you make it (I admit, I have a fondness for posting travel pictures, blog post links and funny thoughts when I can come up with them.) So relax, be happy, and encourage social networking instead of ticking people off so much that they stop bothering to log in anymore.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Getting stuff done

Jake enjoying the new couch

As much as I like to get work done, there are just things that are more important. The DIY project at Chez Pick has been going on all weekend. Steve has been home for four days and we've used the time to get things done.

First, the couch was successfully built. It took five hours and a lot of anger before he finally got that thing put together. Not only did the couch not have Velcro on the frame, rendering the extra couch cover we bought useless. Then the cover for the cushions was too small (there's no way you can smash a leather cushion with a wood back into a pillow case). But the kicker was that the chaise lounge had no instructions in the box. We tried to call IKEA but they were closed. During lunch break (Steve needed one by then) he found the instructions online -- for the American store. There were differences that he had to figure out on his own. Thanks, IKEA!

Anyway, the couch is lovely and Steve did a great job. The chaise is big enough for us to both sit on and watch TV. (The cat fits too.) We got to relax Saturday and Sunday with movies and hanging out in our cosy living room.

Today we painted the bedroom. There was blue wallpaper that had been painted a dark red (the seller's choice) and we had to get that changed. While we could have taken the paper down, we just painted over it to give it a quick make-over. (I've posted the before and after pics on Flickr.)

Now that this weekend's family time devoted to making this place more homey is complete, tomorrow will be back to work for us both. I neglected my walking a lot this weekend too (not that the cleaning and painting doesn't count as exercise) so I'll out and about tomorrow. Then it will be time to get myself back at the desk.

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Where I work


I'm at a couple of disadvantages as I write this blog post today. First, I'm typing on my Kindle Fire which, I'm sorry to say, is a huge pain in the butt compared to my iPhone. Secondly, I'm sitting on the floor with my back against the coffee table while Steve disassembles our old couch. We're anxiously awaiting our new arrival from IKEA -- the red couch with the chaise. We even bought the chair to match. Now I'll have my own reading chair (well, until the cat claims it as his own as he did with our old armchair.)

So, since these current typing conditions are less than typical, I wonder whet conditions people like to work in. Personally, I don't mind typing on a smartphone (I'm use to my old iPhone 3GS that I typically use that around the house for note keeping and snippets of blog posts.) I also have an HP laptop that I've taken out to coffee shops so I can work outside of the house for a change (even though it’s a bit bulky to carry around.)  But my main place is in the study, on the Acer Aspire AX3400 PC that Steve bought for me right before I moved in.

From my desk in the study, I have a view of the backyard, the birds on the feeder, and the neighbours passing by to the main street. It's pleasant and nice and, when I'm lucky, no loud music upstairs or loud Mary Kay clients across the hall. I like quiet. Even when I read at the gym, I just have to listen to classical music to drown out Radio 1 on the overhead speakers.  That's why being home, on my comfort zone, is so nice. I have peace, quiet and a proper keyboard.  Now I have a big, comfy chair too!

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ode to my Xbox

I know I should write something about writing for Blogathon 2012 since it is for writers. I have to keep myself on task when I work throughout the day. A lot of people say that the internet and especially Twitter will keep them from getting back to work. They’re great things, yes, but I have my phone so I can play with that pretty much anytime. What gets me side-tracked is the silly Xbox 360.

I’ve loved playing games when I was a kid with my Nintendo. I never had older siblings to show me how to play any of these games and my friends certainly weren’t interested. (Some of the girls I was friends with as adults even thought playing video games was stupid – can you imagine?) So now that I’ve traded in the little Playstation 2 that I bought myself when I first started teaching full-time (those kids and their tales of fun inspired me to do it), for the glorious set up of PS3, Wii and Xbox that we have now.

I was always a fan of GTA (I’ve even seen Rockstar North with my own eyes!) and The Sims when left to my own devices so those were the games I went to first. But I finally tried the first-person game (odd – I like first person POV for books but originally only liked 3rd person POV for video games) and now I’m hooked on Skyrim. Well, I was until I made myself stop playing the stupid thing each day. Even in the evening I stopped bothering and opted for reading just so I wouldn’t get caught up in wanting to play for hours on end during any available time I had. It’s helped a lot and even made me lose interest which is an extremely good thing.

I love video games but my playing them isn’t really contributing to the world in a positive way (well, when I help someone play it I am.) So less Xbox, more typing and reading. That’s my writing advice for today. It works for me.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Books I like to read


As much as I love my Kindle Fire, I've been getting more and more books from the library lately. This, of course, is a good thing because not only do I save money, help circulation numbers for my local library system but I discover books that I've heard of but wouldn't necessarily seek out. So after returning some classic books that I've been trying to read for my book reviews, I thought about the kinds of books I generally read.

Personally, I love the real life stories but I also like those that also have a touch of the supernatural. I only like books written in first person point of view too. It's just my own taste that some may not understand but I feel disconnected from a situation if someone involved isn't giving me the details.

Books like The Secret Circle that I reviewed recently aren't as interesting as it would have been with Cassie telling me the story. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a cute book that I still have to finish. The overly-fantastical world and the third person point of view makes me feel like a stranger rather than a participating figure in the story.

I have been trying to break out of my reading norm and reading books that aren't my usual choice. This is why I have Harry Potter on my list as well as Clockwork Angel and Fallen. I admit, however, the books in my to-read stack now are all first person: A Moveable Feast, The Truth About Forever, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Switched.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Painting in May


Well, it's May 1st and the A-Z list of movies is done. The sun’s come back this month and it’s time to get back to the norm. Blogathon 2012 has started as well but I will try not to post too many links to my Facebook timeline (a lot of people probably aren’t fussed with links.)

We have been planning some renovating on the flat. When Steve bought the place, it was left with some questionable wall coloration. There's yellow wood chip wallpaper in the computer room, red paint in the bedroom (the kind that reminds me of Big's room in Sex and the City -- "It's like sleeping in Communist China.") and the bland, off-white walls in the living room. Steve had fixed up the kitchen before I moved in and we painted over the salmon colour hallway with a tasteful mocha. Now we have to tackle the rest of the rooms.

After deliberating with catalogues, online sources and shelves of wallpaper in the store that we spent 45 minutes looking over, we decided that it was too much of a pain. All the accessories and messing about with wallpaper hanging, cutting, aligning, rolling, brushing... Paint will be much easier. We still have to get the shelves and the wood chip paint down. The computer room is going to be a study for the great minds of the Pick family!

For some reason I choose green whenever I get into home decorating. I had a green couch in my old apartment and now we have green paint for the bedroom. I guess the natural, earthiness of it will be a fresh welcome to the rusty red colour that's been there for years. For the living room, a teal or blue. For the study? No idea. Maybe a nice purple (I doubt Steve will be able to work in a room covered in a cotton candy pink hue.)

I'll make sure to document some before and after photos of our transformed flat. We heard the music students upstairs move out so the place is nice and quiet for the time being. Less going on at Mary Kay's too so all of these changes make it feel even more homey.

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