Welcome to My Virtual Housewarming Party!
Anyway, we had a great time. And since I know that there are many of you who would have liked to have been at the party--and indeed, were there in spirit--then I offer a virtual housewarming party for those who couldn't attend, be it because of prior obligations or because we live an ocean apart. As with our "in-person" guests, I ask you to bring nothing but a penchant for a good time and a sense of humor.
So if you'd like to visit the House of Felagund for a while, don your mask and costume and follow me right this way ...
Halloween is Bobby's and my favorite holiday, and so when it appeared that our housewarming party was to coincide with Halloween, having a Haunted Housewarming Party seemed a natural variation for us.
We decorate for Halloween like no other holiday. (Yes, even Christmas.) And so as you come up the street, the House of Felagund is very hard to miss.
As you drive up the street, you will first notice Bobby's graveyard. He's very proud of his graveyard. At night, it is set off with spotlights ... solar-powered, of course.
And you can see that we have a bit of a spider problem.
As you pull into the driveway ...
... I will have you know that that is not me waiting to welcome you by the door!
Nor is the spinny-headed pumpkin Bobby. Alas.
When you come in the front door, you'll find yourself first in our living room. This room is one of the few that is almost entirely finished. (All that's left is curtains for one window that I've avoided picturing here.)
I think it's the prettiest room, but I can take very little credit for it. Mom--who is an awesome decorator--found the furniture and much of the accessories for the room.
As is the outside of the house, the living room is decorated for Halloween too. The little Halloween bears on the top of the hall tree were given to us by my mother-in-law when we first moved into the apartment. They ended up in the background of most of our wedding pictures three years ago!
And the ghost on the wall belonged to my grandmother, who died when I was fourteen. I fell in love with that tacky, plastic ghost from the moment I first saw it, helping Mom to clean out Grandmom's house. That and a couple of pieces of jewelry are what I have from her, and I still treasure it.
And finally, a picture of a picture. Yes, that is your hosts in the picture! We had an "Olde Tyme Photo" done in Ocean City this year. Since it seemed to fit the style of the rest of the room, we put it up. I told Bobby that it is just like us to have our first studio-done family portrait taken in costume!
Of course, at any party--no matter the number of people or the amount of seating available elsewhere--everyone crowds into the kitchen. So let me lead you to our dining area.
When we bought the house, the dining area was an ugly green color. Well, I thought it was ugly. I suspect that many would have found it attractive, as it is what might best be described as a "country" green. But since my tastes in home decor tend to be a little eclectic, the green had to go.
We painted it red instead.
Why red? Because our kitchen/dining area is being done in "chili pepper theme." Hence the chili-pepper posters ... which are a great reference, by the way. Bobby and I are big fans of peppers of all variety, from boring bells to hellish habañeros. One of the great things about living in the country is that we now have available to us locally grown peppers of myriad varieties.
But the red sets off our chili peppers quite nicely, I think. Also, red is my favorite color, and Mom and I have often talked about daring to put up a bright red wall ... so Bobby and I decided to do it.
Now you're looking down the hallway, toward the bedrooms, bathroom, and study. The wood carving on the wall was purchased this year at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It was hand-carved from a single piece of wood, and its meaning is
Four hearts in perfect balance composed of one continuous line that has no beginning and no end ...
The symbol of a long and loving relationship.
Do I really need to say why Bobby chose that particular design? (Indeed, he bought it as a surprise for me!)
But while your here, in the dining area, might as well step into the kitchen to have a look around. The kitchen still needs some work. We need to take down some wallpaper and paint ... and put up some chili peppers!
I find it appropriate that when I took these pictures, I was in the middle of making ice cream. Hence, my larger ice cream maker is up and running (on the counter, to the right). My smaller ice cream maker was out the night before, but Bobby makes me put away my toys when I'm done with them. ;)
So let's talk food. What are we eating? Dad is bringing his famous meatballs. My mother-in-law is making her specialty, taco dip, and Mom-Mom will bring deviled eggs.
Bobby has made a pasta with sorrentina sauce: that is, red sauce mixed with ricotta cheese. And of course, we will have chips and dip, a vegetable tray, and cheese and crackers.
But we wanted to make a few traditional, seasonal items too. Bobby baked a loaf of barmbrack, an Irish bread traditionally served on All Hallows Eve. We also have baked pumpkin seeds to snack on.
And of course, we can't have a party without me going a little crazy in making desserts. This year, I tried a new recipe for pumpkin ice cream and, with it, made a frozen pumpkin pie. It turned out delicious! In addition, I made a green apple sorbet to be served with hot caramel sauce. The apples are just a little tart ... perfect! Mom-Mom brought blueberry and apple pies, and I had some frozen cassata left over from a previous party. (Imagine cannoli filling in ice cream form, served in an Italian cookie crust, and glazed with bittersweet chocolate.) Finally, for those watching their sugar intake, I made "NSA" (no sugar added) butter pecan. Indeed, that is what is mixing in the picture!
Let's go next down the hall. First, the bathroom: because the bathroom is really, really ugly. You don't need to pretend otherwise. And actually, we've done a lot to make it look better than it did. Somehow, our bathroom ended up with three different kinds of tile on the wall and two different colors of trim. Well, Bobby painted all of the trim white, which was an improvement. We got rid of the moldy (yes, moldy) window screen and the lace (yes, lace) shower curtain.
But the fixtures are still booger-yellow (which I am told that, in 1970s parlance, is actually "harvest gold"):
Even funnier, I saw part of a home design show once over Mom and Dad's, and they were remodeling a couple's ugly and hopelessly outdated bathroom, and they had the exact same medicine cabinet. So even the pros would agree that this is one ugly bathroom!
Now once you've had a few drinks, here is the view from the loo:
Across the hall is the guest bedroom. In an age long ago--as in when I still lived with my parents--I loved zebras and wanted my bedroom done with everything zebra print. We never got around to remodeling my bedroom, but Mom held onto the stuff we'd bought for three years until we bought a house with a second bedroom to use it in.
I've suggested to Bobby that to continue with the "jungle love" theme, we should install a trapeze ...
Those very familiar with my journal icons might recognize the print on the wall in the first picture.
On down the hall, we come to the master bedroom. Walking in the door ...
Like the kitchen, this room still needs some finishing touches. Why is it always our room that gets finished last? It was this way at the apartment too.
(Also, Nelyo would like me to point him out, taking a rest on Bobby's bureau.)
The painting was the original oil that we found at Ocean Gallery for an amazing $40 last year and fell in love with. The tic-tac-toe shelf to the left holds nicknacks and souvenirs from our various adventures.
Part of why it takes us so long to finish a room is that we generally like to take our time to find things that we 1) really love and 2) have personal meaning. Decorating for the sake of decorating doesn't appeal to me too much. I'd sooner be able to walk into a room, ask my guest to pick up one item, and be able to tell a story to go with that item.
Like our parrot ...
We found him down the ocean this summer. We loved him immediately. Most places had him holding an ornamental bottle. Yes, ours is holding an almost-finished bottle of Captain Morgan. This is the bottle of Captain Morgan that was purchased to make good on Bobby's promise to drink a bottle of rum the first night that we spent in our new house. As anyone who has been with me on LiveJournal for a few months knows, we fell in love with this house from the moment we saw it, and it proved to be a tremendous pain in the ass from that point forward. Therefore, Bobby vowed to drink a bottle of rum when--if--we ever moved into it.
Being his wife and concerned about his health, I could not allow him to do this. So I told him that I would have to help him.
He did. I did. We did.
(And I learned: waxing floors while drunk? Not recommended.)
So this was all that was left of the first night's rum. Therefore, it shall never be finished but will remain in our room, with our parrot, as a testament to what it took to get where we are today.
And finally, for you aquarium nerds (you know who you are and, yes, I am looking at you), the saltwater tank in our bedroom:
(No, the coral isn't real. But the fish are!)
I tried to get closeups of the clownfish but haven't quite figured out the autofocus on the SeaLife camera (and was too lazy to really try, honestly).
Now, onward to the study. When Bobby and I started the home-buying process, we each listed what we really wanted in a house. We're simple folk. Neither of us wanted cathedral ceilings or a three-car garage. Bobby wanted a finished basement where we could put our largish TV (inherited from my grandmother) and where he could watch sports and we could watch movies. I wanted a kitchen with a dishwasher (or a place where a dishwasher might reasonably go) and a small room to use as a study. (Of course, we both wanted a large enough backyard for Alex that either was or could be fenced. In fact, our priorities were reversed from most home buyers: to us, the land was more important than the house. We'd sooner settle for a decent-sized piece of land and a smaller house than the other way around.)
That this house satisfied all that we wanted to a spectacular degree was part of the reason that we fell in love with it. My study is in fact a third bedroom, but since Bobby and I won't have any children, then we have no need for three bedrooms.
First things first: the books. Anyone who has helped us to move, either to the house or earlier to the apartment, will attest to the fact that we have a lot of books. (yuanrang?) Most of what we moved both times (aside from furniture) was books. We have three ceiling-high bookshelves and enough books to fill a fourth.
The shield is Bobby's ... and yes, it is a real shield for bona fide swordfighting. The design is Richard the Lionheart's. Bobby won't be using it right away for heavy fighting because it's recommended that beginners use a larger shield but, someday, this piece of steel might well keep my husband's head from getting bashed in.
Now my desk, where all the
One of my wishes for my study was a shelf over my desk for my reference books: all of my Tolkien books, writing references, and web design books. At the apartment, I would always find myself needing one of these books, then having to search through three (poorly organized) bookshelves to find what I needed. It was more often than not on the third shelf I checked. Now, I need only stand up to find what I need and I'm back to work in seconds.
Of course, in the foreground is Pengolodh Lord of Gondolin (my computer) with my beloved desktop background of Fëanor sleeping on his desk (as I never get to do on mine because I'm always too busy) by the estimable Ebe Kastein.
Directly opposite my desk is my art table. It's like their vying for my attention: "Dawn! Write! No, paint! Write! Paint! Write! Paint! Writepaintwritepaint!" And so on.
At the back of the table are my perpetually unfinished Fëanor-on-dragon and Oliphaunt models. Expect to see these finished ... when I'm eighty.
The ceiling was painted as a blue sky because this was a child's bedroom. However, I found is whimsical enough to leave it. It seems an appropriate ceiling for a fantasy author.
For our anniversary this year, Bobby bought us an antique suit of armor. At the time, my flist found this incredibly cool. I haven't posted a picture of it yet, so here it is, as it now lives in our study.
The armor in front of it, again, is real. This is Bobby's heavy fighting armor ... or his tin-can suit, as I like to call it. Hanging on the wall to the right is his flail.
Because I work in law enforcement, I work with a lot of people who have (for lack of a better word) a gun fetish. They like owning guns. They don't understand how anyone could feel safe in a house without a gun.
I hate guns. And this is one of the few instances where you will hear me use the h-word. Guns are for pansies. Therefore, we do not own a gun. I tell my coworkers this; they go ballistic (pun intended), certain that I face annihilation at the hands of the criminals lurking in very violent Manchester since I don't keep a gun in the house.
No, I assure them. Here is Bobby's and my mode of home protection.
Well, if they're not first dissuaded by the bellowing Golden Retrievers (who sound scary even if they really ... aren't), then they will find themselves in the hallway facing ... archers.
If they survive the onslaught of arrows that we lob at them, then we dare them to come to the study. Because we have a flail. A forty-two-inch longsword. And a battleaxe.
Home security systems at their earliest and finest!
Now let's head downstairs to the basement. The basement was one of the things that made us fall in love with the house because, as I've said, Bobby has always wanted an entertainment room: a place to watch movies and games and host Super Bowl parties. Here begins your descent into the basement ... and you can clearly see where our loyalties lie. (At least in terms of football!)
The basement runs the length of the house. We have two large utility rooms and two large finished portions. The first of the finished rooms currently serves multiple purposes. It is Bobby's music room.
The white Squire Stratocaster is mine. The rest are Bobby's.
It is also where we currently keep our
He aspires to one day use part of this room for a miniature train garden.
The main room was dubbed early on Bobby's "sports palace." Over his lifetime, he's collected numerous posters, pennants, figurines, and other memorabilia. At last, he has a place to put them all out!
This is also where we keep our aforementioned largish TV. (And no, your eyes did not deceive you earlier. We do not have a TV in our living room. Why? Because nothing annoys me more than trying to socialize at a party and some moron has to put on the TV and then everyone's staring at it and drooling on themselves ... and why did we get together for that??)
Because our house is heated with (very expensive) electric baseboard heat, then much of our heating in the winter will come from the woodstove.
The Ravens corner! The poster to the left of the CD tower was actually made by Bobby from pictures that he took this summer at Ravens training camp, which takes place only fifteen minutes from our house. At the center is an autographed roster. Our neighbor Bob (who is an excellent photographer) was actually paid by a local restaurant for the pictures he took at training camp.
Fellow Bal'morons should recognize (if they squint) the one-eyed man at the center of the clock.
And finally, the third bookshelf makes its appearance!
And for the aquarium nerds, stop squinting, here's a picture of the tank. ;)
This one is a freshwater tank. Unfortunately, only one fish from the apartment is still alive: Celegorm the bala shark. He's one of the original fish we bought when we decided to start a tank a year and a half ago. He's survived the tank almost collapsing through our old console shelf, six hours in the car on moving day, and throwing himself from the tank to the kitchen floor while we tried to transfer him to the new tank. He's the big silver fish to the left of the tank, partially behind the plant.
Finally, let's take a walk into the backyard. The backyard--as I said earlier--was of utmost importance because we were buying the house, in part, for Alex and whatever dogs may follow him.
Carroll County is in the foothills to the Appalachian Mountains. There's lots of land ... but not much flat land. That our yard is both spacious and flat made it quite a find.
Standing on the back patio and looking to your left ...
And out in the yard is a playful Golden!
One of the things that I loved about the yard was the grove of trees that is perfect for a picnic area. The week that we moved, we must have looked like a bunch of gypsies to our neighbors because there was always a crowd of us sitting out here, under the trees, sometimes with a fire going (it gets chilly up here, even in the summer, after sundown), in folding chairs. Usually eating. Sometimes drinking and smoking. Having lewd conversations (more likely than not).
And that was just my family. ;)
The swingset at the back of the yard was left by the former owners. We will eventually demolish it and give it to a good home with kids who will get some enjoyment out of it.
And now, looking to the right of the patio ...
And that is the House of Felagund! I leave you with one final picture, because every house needs a garden gnome.
And every photographer needs a good assistant, and Lancelot was mine!