My new happy place

Though I admitted yesterday to reading less than I would like lately (thank you all so much for your rut-busting recommendations!), I am happy to report that our home library is now functional, pretty and perfect for settling into with a good read.

From the moment we stepped into the house, I pictured this bright, sunny and quiet room near the door as a space for reading and relaxing. I lobbied for a library just as my husband campaigned for a basement workshop, and we’re both pretty happy with the results! (And our separate spaces. One does benefit from a room of one’s own.)

The bookcases were originally from our local Borders, purchased for Spence’s old condo and finally moved to the new house. They were gathering dust in the basement until a friend helped us bring three upstairs, and then I was doing my happy-happy dance all over the room until I just couldn’t shake it anymore.

I love that the room feels a little random. It’s filled with goodies we’ve collected in the last few years and is already shaping into the fun, funky, colorful room I envisioned.

The chair was a purchase from Target, the throw a gift from my grandmother. My beloved book pillow was purchased from a French-inspired shop during a trip with my mother- and father-in-law to Niagara-on-the-Lake in April.

I bought the cushion for a future library before there even was a library. The ultimate “If you build it . . .,” wouldn’t you say?

Of course, the books themselves draw most of the interest . . . and rightfully so. I have childhood favorites, beloved series, collections and review copies. There are hardcovers, cookbooks, old journals and photo albums.

A little of everything. Everything I love.

On an end table are coasters for tea (of course!), a painted initial from our wedding and a favorite photo from our engagement shoot. With a tiny piece of Parisian lamp, too, because classy.

Back when I was silly and thought I needed to decorate the house immediately, I made canvases featuring my favorite cover art from three cherished books: The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice and I Capture The Castle.

I’ve had them for months and debated their placement approximately 10,000 times, but Spence and I finally settled on a spot and hung them last week — along with an older “Keep Calm” poster I had in my childhood bedroom. I love that it’s back, displayed proudly again.

Though we still have a few things to work on and will eventually get an ottoman and couch for an adjacent wall, it feels good to have one room close to “done.” I love passing through there daily, even if I don’t have much time to sit, and look forward to all the quiet mornings of coffee and daydreams I’ll enjoy in that chair.

And the reading, of course. The words and stories and change.

And just because before-and-afters are always fun . . .

old library

New library

Thrifty finds and learning to re-purpose

It’s kind of like a sickness.

Once you start looking at auctions and vintage sites, yard sales and estate sales, you find yourself steadfastly refusing to buy “new” and peering into every nook and cranny for something to “re-purpose.”

I blame my husband, who loves seeking out unique items to fix up and give new life. And budgeting, of course. Buying a new house devoid of most furnishings has meant I’ve spent a crazy amount of time online looking for the right this-or-that for the closet, the bedroom, the kitchen.

And friends? I bought my chair. You encouraged me and you were right: it was necessary and I’m so happy I took the plunge.

After tracking the package from Savannah with a fervor typically reserved for kids checking SAT scores, I came home to a gigantic package in front of the garage. The chair is in the library now and looks awesome — just what I wanted! I’m going to do a little tour next week because I have a library now and am simply too excited about it.

As Spence was opening the box yesterday, I was literally stamping my feet like a 3-year-old. A toddler ripping through packages from Santa.

Not even sorry about it.

But that? That was my first “new” purchase in quite a while. For the last few months, Spence and I have been getting up early on many Saturdays to check out a big flea market. Folks come from all over to sell their random stuff, and we usually don’t leave empty-handed.

My husband has loaded all manner of tools, equipment and movies into the car since we started going, but I typically leave without spending cash myself. Especially as we prepped to move, anything new we bought was something else we had to schlep from the condo to the house . . . and I was already done with schlepping.

Now that our things are (mostly) unboxed and the house is not a complete disaster, I feel pretty confident moving into the new phase of homeownership: DECORATING.

And I cannot be stopped.

It started with fall pieces here and there . . . on the mantel, for one, after I felt sure that our colony of bees living in the fireplace either a) no longer exists; or b) figured out another escape route. Other than, you know, through our living room. So with the plastic tarp removed (yay!), I felt good about adding some decorative elements up there.

Though I’m not the craftiest person, I’ve started checking out Pinterest projects and other blogs with more interest. Like all skills, I’m sure I can get better with practice — and in terms of transforming yard sale finds, I’m guessing I just have to experiment.

I’m starting slow.

After chatting with a nice older couple on Saturday, I brought home this vintage-y artwork from them:

Art print

Don’t ask me why, but I love this piece. I’ve seen similar prints in vintage shops, but they’re upwards of $50 a pop. I don’t know the history of them (anyone know?), but each month seems to have its own print with flower varieties listed.

This one? July. My birth month.

As the woman happily sold it to me, she said, “I just marked that one down! I’ve had it around forever. I guess the right person comes along at the right time.”


Though it seemed fated, the frame was badly damaged and a corner of the print is a bit waterlogged. Rather than just break it out of the wooden frame and buy a new one, though, I’ve decided to re-purpose it.

This is the part where I should be like, “And LOOK! Look at it noooooow!” . . . but, unfortunately, I haven’t painted it yet.

I know. I’m sorry.

I did go to the craft store for paint and a foam brush, and I consider that a win during a crazy work week. After spending way too much time deciding between various shades of red, brown and yellow, I bought a dark brown that should complement the furniture in the library really well.

Old me would have shelled out $20 for a new frame without any character, but new me — er, the thrifty me — is just makin’ it work.

Kind of proud.

And if you need me, I’ll be in the library.

Why I love library wandering (and you should, too)

Library audio books

I love library wandering.

Once upon a time, I didn’t show up at my local branch without a game plan . . . or, more specifically, a hold plan. When I heard about a book I had to get my grubby little paws on, it was off to the library’s website to request it. Then I’d pull my hair out with impatience waiting for that “your book is on hold!” email, at which point I’d break the speed limit getting over there before they closed after work.

I’ll be totally honest: I’m a little too reliant on instant gratification to request popular traditional books from the library, but I do adore audios for the car. With my recent move came a work commute increase to a whole 15 minutes each way (gasp!), so that’s 30 minutes of interrupted listening I can get done each day. Considering what a lousy reading year I’ve had (wedding planning and all that), audios make up a major part of my literary diet. I need them.

But I don’t want to pay for them. And you know what’s great about the library? You don’t have to pay for anything. You show up, flash your pass (ahem — card) and walk out with anything your heart desires.

And I love not knowing what that is until I get there. In the past few months, I’ve found myself looking forward to my aimless library ambles every other week. I’ve gotten more spontaneous with the materials I chose, leaning more heavily into non-fiction audio books than ever before. I don’t plan, don’t pre-track. When I read about an appealing story on a book blog or beyond, I make a mental note . . . and that’s it.

Living in the moment.

As a reader, there’s something magical about meandering through the library stacks until I find The One. It reminds me of my pre-blogging days — back when I was a bookseller. I never read reviews, didn’t troll Goodreads or Amazon. It was enough to simply pace through Borders’ literature/fiction section until a novel “spoke” to me.

My ears are still perked at the library — with the added benefit that everything is free to us. So do it! Explore! Some of my favorite recent reads were stories I would have worried about shelling out my hard-earned dough to buy; I would be debate whether I’d really like it enough to pay $20 and own it forever and ever (or until donating it). But the library is an investment-free way to break out and do something daring. To get crazy! Wild!

Well, as wild as a group of unruly bookworms can get it.

But let’s not sell ourselves short.

Booking Through Thursday: Library memories

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday!

“I saw that National Library week is coming up in April, and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?”

Well! National Library Week is indeed happening soon — April 12-18. I can’t say that I frequent our local libraries for anything other than the Saturday book sale — which is amazing — but I do love the general atmosphere of being surrounded by books and book-minded people! I guess that’s why I loved working at the bookstore so much.

I think that in many ways, the bookstore/coffeehouse has replaced the library as a center of knowledge and community. Of course, I say this as someone who does not go to the library! Those that do will, I’m sure, have a totally different opinion. But in my experience, people came to our Borders to talk to one another, get a cup of coffee, browse through all the latest releases and hang out in the cafe. Our local library system doesn’t have the same ambiance that the bookstore does. It’s older, definitely darker and more out-of-the-way from the center of town. By contrast, our town’s only bookstore lies basically at the heart of the city, is easily accessible and always has new stuff. I prefer the modern feel of the bookstore, but that’s generally true of me.

giant_jam_sandwichBut that’s not to say that it was always that way. As a kid, I was a staple in our elementary school’s library — always picking up the same few books and, occasionally, branching out to grab some new ones. Up until around fifth grade, my favorite was always The Giant Jam Sandwich! I don’t think I’ve thought about that book in years. I loved it! Many of us would gather around one of the bookshelves, pulling the pages apart eagerly. In that same library, we actually had a huge replica of a Native American hut — yes, we were awesome — and all the kids loved to have storytime in there. I remember racing off to the library so I could be the first to select a picture book, then scampering into the darkness of the hut to read in peace. I’ve always been solitary!

My dad would take my sister and me to the county library, too. Like all dutiful girls of the ’90s, I loved the Babysitter’s Club books — and worked my way through the entire series on no time. We’re all very bookish, so constant trips to the library, the Super Crown bookstore (now a Panera!) and the WaldenBooks (now a Borders Express) were always in order.



Weekend wrap-up: Bookish edition

So I’d been hearing about this “Saturday book sale” at the public library in La Plata for quite some time, but the last time I actually have a memory of going was years and years ago. As my boyfriend Palmer and I are such book fiends, I knew we needed to get over there sometime in the near future. Cheap books? Yes, please!

And it was amazing. We got up (somewhat) early, took a drive deeper into Southern Maryland, wandered down Charles Street in search of the actual library (mental note: it’s past the hospital, not before it) and finally found the basement with the donated books.

There were 75 CENTS a paperback — 75 cents! Young adult was 25 cents, children’s books were like 50 cents . . . and so forth. The random hardcover was only one dollar. I nearly jumped out of my skin! I behaved myself and only grabbed two books — Alison Weir’s Innocent Traitor and Mr. Knightley’s Diary, another book to add to my rapidly-growing foray into Jane Austen fiction. Palmer found a paperback called Blood Music he’s been searching for and did a little happy dance.

Fresh off our three-book haul for $2.36, we walked back up Charles Street (yes, walked — in 18 degree weather. The boyfriend’s awesome idea) to get lunch at El Dorado. Delicious! And we absolutely could not walk by a bakery on our way back to the car without stopping in. Charles Street Bakery — aptly named — was adorable, and I had absolutely no idea it even existed.

And they had . . . OBAMA COOKIES!


I bought two. Plus some red, white and blue star-shaped ones for Tuesday. What better way to celebrate the inauguration than by eating dessert with the president’s mug on it? Now that is a holiday!




After our fun cafe experience, we headed back up to Waldorf to try and catch a movie — but the movies were jammed. In fact, the entire town was jammed — like, Black Friday-and-Christmas-rush jammed. Definitely out of town and inauguration traffic. We did manage to squeeze by a local used-book shop on our way home, though, and I got three more books . . . and Palmer got two more. We’re addicts and we so enable each other.

And, of course, when all was said and done and we came back home . . . I had two books that came in the mail from my fellow BookMoochers. Very exciting! So all in all, I slapped seven new titles onto my TBR mountain:


Now all I have to do is sit still long enough to read them!