2016 Reading Challenge

A new year, a new reading challenge! This year, I'm challenging myself to read at least 75 books again! In 2015, I read 76 books - largely in part because I read so much during our marathon snowy winter and days off from school last year. I do know that it may take some extra work, but I think that I can achieve this challenge.

To make things a little bit more interesting, I am giving myself a bit of an extra challenge - to only read books that as of January 1, 2016 are on my Goodreads To Read list or sitting in the large pile next to my bed or already purchased on Audible (with exceptions for book club picks!). This list is comprised of over 226 books and so I will have lots to choose from! I am hoping to start with the basket and the (not so neat and organized) piles of books next to my bed, before moving on from those.

This is the list of the books pictured above...

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Family Pictures by Jane Green
Dead Wake by Erik Larson
The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Her by Harriet Lane
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
The History of Venezuela by H. Michael Tarver and Julia C. Frederick
The Country Under My Skin by Gioconda Belli
Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution by Hugo Chavez and Marta Harnecker
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Native Son by Richard Wright
Walking Dead Compendium 2 by Robert Kirkland
Walking Dead Compendium 3 by Robert Kirkland
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz
The New New Deal by Michael Grunwald
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
Z by Therese Anne Fowler
Is There Tomorrow? by Caroline Leavitt
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Son by Lois Lowry
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kieran
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
The Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

And, finally, my already purchased books on Audible...

I am currently already reading All Fall Down, The People of the Book and The Notorious RBG and as soon as I'm done with them, I am excited to start reading A Little Life! I've heard incredible things about A Little Life and I am so excited to dive into it! I am also excited to finish listening to Paddle Your Own Canoe - which I will hopefully finish this week! 

Have you read any of these books? What were your favorites? Are you taking on any reading challenges for 2016?


Closet Happenings

One of the things that we knew was going to be a bit of change for us when we moved into our house was the change in the amount of closet space that we had. Yes, we were gaining a large amount of general storage space, but we were used to a walk-in closet in our apartment that held all of our clothes. Our new master bedroom closet had one shelf and one bar and not a lot of room for the clothes of two people who own a lot of clothes.

We knew from the first moment we had our offer accepted on the house that this closet would be near the top of our to-update list. One night about 2 or 3 nights after we moved in - at the end of June - I decided to tackle this project.

I took a hammer and a crowbar and I pried out the shelf, support and bar. I was left with the wooden piece around the inside of the closet, and quite a few cracks in the walls.

I used paintable caulk, and sealed up all of the cracks and gaps in the corners of the wall, along the trim, and around the wooden piece.

Once the cracks were sealed up, I used an oil based primer to prime the entire inside of the closet - including the inside trim and the wooden piece around the inside where the shelf used to be. Then, I used Behr paint (color matched to Benjamin Moore's Simply White) and painted one coat in the closet - on the walls, trim and the ceiling.

Then, I purchased a ClosetMaid kit - the ClosetMaid Impressions 16 inch in Dark Cherry - and installed it into the closet. My aunt helped me build the shelves while she was here to help me paint, and then I finished installing them the weekend after she left. I also purchased an additional clothing rod so that we would have the stacked shelving in the middle of the closet and two rods on either side of the shelving. The rods on the right, and the bottom four shelves, are for me, and Josh has the left side and top four shelves of the closet.

In order to install it, I removed the closet doors - which were sliding doors that made it very difficult to get into the closet. As of today, we are awaiting new closet doors that we have hired a contractor to install for us. They will be french doors that allow us full access to the closet. 

While we still have clothes that flow into other closets, this organizer has allowed us to maximize our use of space. We are definitely planning on adding these organizers in closets in our other rooms, and eventually into our front half closet as well. 

It was an easy fix with a huge reward - a place to keep our clothes! - and we love that the organizer is sturdy and matches well with the style of the home. 

Have you installed closet organizers into your closets? Rearranged your clothes storage space with a little bit of paint and some new storage units? I'd love to hear about how you managed your clothes storage!


Wallpaper is Not My Favorite

I know that for some people, wallpaper is making a comeback. My mother just put up wallpaper in a number of rooms in her house - both in small (bathroom) and large (dining room and den) spaces - and she couldn't be happier with the result. And there is definitely something to be said for new wallpaper, but old wallpaper? That was a big red flag for us - and one we didn't even know existed when we first moved into the house!

When we first bought the house, the area behind the fireplace was covered with a light wood paneling. And once we pulled up the carpet, it became an even more glaring eyesore.

While we were pulling up the carpet, I actually took a sneak peek behind the paneling in a spot that we were able to pry off of the wall.

After removing the bottom fake wood trim, and the mantel, it was fairly easy to pull the paneling off of the wall and move it into the garage with the carpet.

But, what did we find behind the paneling? We found 50 year old wallpaper!!! Covered with glue!!!

Don't even try to tell me that 50 year old wallpaper covered with dried wood paneling glue isn't the sexiest thing you've ever seen in a house. We considered making it a design feature, but we had bigger plans for the wall. And so, in a wild fit of "this-wallpaper-goes-or-I-go" I ran out to Home Depot one afternoon and picked up the world's best wallpaper remover.

Seriously, I am not joking around. Do you need to remove wallpaper? This is your stuff. (They didn't pay me to say that, btw.) I used 2 bottles of this spray, the wallpaper cutting tool and a scraper. It took a little bit of elbow grease, but before I knew it (about 2 hours), the wallpaper was gone. 

In fact, it was gone so quickly that I didn't take any pictures of the removal process. Then, I headed to the beach for a week and by the time I returned, the wall around the fireplace had undergone quite a change, so there were never any pictures taken without the wallpaper.  

But, when I returned, I was greeted with an amazing sight - and the sneak peek that I will leave you with today - our built-in bookshelves!

Worth it to not have the wallpaper removal photos? I think so! Have you ever removed wallpaper? What method did you use? Are you a fan of the Chomp citrus spray too? I would have been lost without it!

I'll see you back on Friday to talk about Round 1 of painting in our new house! 

Painting: Round One

You've heard the expression that the cheapest way to transform a room is with paint and I'm here to tell you that this is 100% true. If you've never had the chance to experience it for yourself and you have a room you're looking to change, head to your nearest paint store and pick up a can (or two!) of paint. 

When we first moved into the house, we knew that painting was in our future - and lots of it! We moved into the house knowing that we wanted to paint every single room and that at 8 rooms (counting the hallway as a room) it would take a little bit of time. Fortunately, shortly after we moved in, my wonderful Aunt Joan offered to head up to the Boston area for 3 and a 1/2 long days of painting.

This photo was taken after the first full day when we were still super cheery. Our spirits stayed up, but by the end of the third 16 hour day, we were a bit exhausted.

When Aunt Joan first got to Boston, the first thing we did was prep the area. First up, the dining room! Josh and I chose Gray Horse by Benjamin Moore. We actually never put the color up on the wall (which is typically a huge mistake) and the colors that you see tested are Horizon and Revere Pewter (both also by Benjamin Moore). We ruled out Revere Pewter right away, and Josh decided that he didn't like Horizon - it appeared very light in the living room. And so, only using the color palette, we decided on Gray Horse.

To prep the area, we covered the floor with rosin paper (that we had leftover from protecting the newly polyurethaned floors when we moved), bagged the light fixture, removed the shades and electrical covers, and speckled any holes.

After we had fully prepped the room, we started by painting the ceiling with a fresh coat of white ceiling paint! Aunt Joan was in charge of rolling, and I was in charge of cutting in around the edges.

While we were waiting for the ceiling to dry in the dining room, we moved into the living room where we prepped the room - covering everything that stayed with plastic - and began to paint the ceiling in there as well. 

Then, as the ceiling was drying in the living room, we were able to move back and paint the dining room. We did wash the walls first and taped absolutely everything off to get clean lines. Two coats of paint later - again with Aunt Joan rolling and me cutting in - for the dining room and the living room, and things were looking a bit different!

We also used the same methods to paint the hallway - ceiling first then washing the walls then taping and then painting two coats.

And then, with less than 24 hours to go, we made a mad dash to paint our master bedroom. Originally an interesting shade of purple, Josh and I decided to go darker and to use the Benjamin Moore color Sparrow. We started again by painting the ceiling, then taping off the windows and trim and painting two coats of paint - with my Aunt rolling and me cutting in. 

And so, with about an hour left to spare until my aunt needed to be at the train station to go back home, we finished the bedroom! 

It was a whirlwind painting adventure but we got into an awesome rhythm that made it go quickly and smoothly. I have since painted three rooms on my own - my office, the kitchen and the bathroom - and I can, without hesitation, tell you that it is much faster with two people instead of just one.

Have you done any painting lately? Is there painting on the horizon for you in the new year? Do you prefer to paint solo or with a partner? I still just can't get over how much paint changes a room!


Book List 2015

As I have mentioned in the past, I keep a log of the books that I read throughout the year in a Google spreadsheet that I share with some wonderful friends. We share book recommendations and comment on what each other is reading throughout the year. Some years we read more, and some we read less, but we are a no-commitment book club filled with people who love to read and whose opinions we respect. 

In 2015, I set my goal for the year at 75 books - a little bit higher than last year's goal of 65 - and I managed to not only reach it, but to exceed it! Here are the books that I read in 2015, in the order that I read them. My favorites are shown in hot pink and any book that I listened to on Audible has an (A) next to it to indicate that I did so. 

1. One Plus One / Jojo Moyes
2. The Museum of Extraordinary Things / Alice Hoffman
3. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society / Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
4. Us / David Nicholls
5. And the Dark Sacred Night / Julia Glass
6. The Patron Saint of Liars / Ann Patchett
7. Walking Dead, Compendium 1 / Robert Kirkman
8. The House Girl / Tara Conklin
9. In the Heart of the Sea / Nathaniel Philbrick
10. The Tao of Martha / Jen Lancaster
11. Murder on the Orient Express / Agatha Christie
12. The Year of Pleasures / Elizabeth Berg
13. To All the Boys I've Loved Before / Jenny Han
14. Before I Go To Sleep / S.J. Watson
15. Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 / Stephen Puleo
16. Attachments / Rainbow Rowell
17. Flash Boys / Michael Lewis
18. Astonish Me / Maggie Shipstead
19. The Girl on the Train / Paula Hawkins (A)
20. Station Eleven / Emily St. John Mandel
21. Landline / Rainbow Rowell
22. Bringing Up Bebe / Pamela Druckerman
23. Yes, Please / Amy Poehler (A) 
24. Love Life / Rob Lowe (A)
25. The Paying Guests / Sarah Waters
26. Leaving Time / Jodi Picoult
27. Three Wishes / Liane Moriarty
28. The Orphans of Race Point / Patry Francis
29. The Cuckoo's Calling / Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling
30. Love Letters to the Dead / Ava Dellaira
31. The Summer I Turned Pretty / Jenny Han
32. It's Not Summer Without You / Jenny Han
33. We'll Always Have Summer / Jenny Han
34. PS I Still Love You / Jenny Han
35. Everything I Never Told You / Celeste Ng
36. I Am Malala / Malala Yousefzai (A)
37. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena / Anthony Marra
38. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan / Lisa See
39. Someday, Someday Maybe / Lauren Graham
40. The Good Girl / Mary Kubica (A)
41. Modern Romance / Aziz Ansari (A)
42. The Martian / Andy Weir
43. Taft / Ann Patchett
44. Me, Earl & the Dying Girl / Jesse Andrews
45. The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction / Robert McMahon
46. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness / Susannah Cahalan (A)
47. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands / Chris Bohjalian
48. The Language of Flowers / Vanessa Diffenbaugh
49. Perfect Little Ladies / Abby Drake
50. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion / Frannie Flagg
51. The Cold War: A New History / John Lewis Gaddis
52. Medium Raw / Anthony Bourdain
53. The Winter People / Jennifer McMahon
54. Elizabeth is Missing / Emma Healey
55. To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee (A)
56. Happiness for Beginners / Katherine Center
57. Go Set a Watchman / Harper Lee
58. The Sea of Tranquility / Katja Millay
59. Food: A Love Story / Jim Gaffigan (A)
60. Why Not Me? / Mindy Kaling (A)
61. All the Bright Places / Jennifer Niven
62. Fangirl / Rainbow Rowell
63. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children / Ransom Riggs
64. I Kill the Mockingbird / Paul Acampora
65. Down the Rabbit Hole / Holly Madison (A)
66. Going Off Script / Guiliana Rancic (A)
67. The Country of Ice Cream Star / Sandra Newman
68. The Royal We / Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
69. The Pearl that Broke its Shell / Nadia Hashimi
70. Simon and the Homo Sapien's Agenda / Becky Albertalli
71. Truth and Beauty / Ann Patchett
72. Emmy & Oliver / Robin Benway
73. How to Start a Fire / Lisa Lutz
74. Unbecoming / Rebecca Sherm
75. Carol (or The Price of Salt) / Patricia Highsmith
76. The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap / Wendy Welch

Keeping track of statistics? This year I read 14 memoirs, listened to 12 books on Audible, enjoyed 14 YA novels, made my way through 5 non-fiction works (excluding memoirs), disliked 7 books and either really liked or absolutely loved 20 of the 78 books that I read (the other 51 books I genuinely enjoyed, but neither hated nor loved).

And for some further breakdown, I read 8 books in January, 10 in February, 3 in March, 3 in April, 6 in May, 4 in June, 6 in July, 14 in August, 4 in September, 6 in October, 4 in November, and 8 in December. 

Of my 10 absolute favorites (hot pink above), I still get ALL THE FEELS thinking about To All the Boys I Loved Before, The Orphans of Race Point and The Sea of Tranquility. And the favorites that surprised me the most (meaning that I didn't think these would be favorites) were Before I Go to Sleep (SERIOUSLY. THIS BOOK. IT IS A MUST READ.) and How to Start a Fire

Overall, this was a wonderful year for reading, made possible in part by fitness challenges where I spent long hours on the treadmill, a record breaking snowy winter in Boston, listening to books on Audible, and genuinely finding and falling in love with some incredible characters.

Want to join along in my literary adventures? You can follow along with me on Goodreads! Did you meet your reading goals this year? What were your favorites of 2015? Please leave them in the comments - everyone loves a great recommendation!  
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