Lake Effect

It turns out that blogging is much more easily accomplished from a Days Inn hotel room in an unfamiliar town during a blizzard than on a birthday or a visit home for the holidays. I’m not sure I have anything particularly insightful or pertinent to put out there, except to express my gratitude for warmth and safety. We sat on Interstate 90 for hours today with our surprisingly patient four month old in her car seat in the back, chattering (I’m assuming) about her hopes that we would change her diaper and feed her again some day. Finally, the state patrol kicked everyone off of the freeway and we found ourselves on even more treacherous country roads. There’s nothing like seeing car after car in ditch after ditch to remind you how lucky you are to be creeping at a snail’s pace ahead. On that potential metaphor, I think I’ll call it a night– only adding that in the past, I’ve spent the first few days of new years looking back and tallying up signs of progress. This year, I would rather look out at sideways snow and be glad that there’s more than a car between it and my family. Snow.

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Mom-athy Part 2

I finally got back to work as an Artist (Writer) in Residence at the children’s hospital last week. My warm-up was an art project at a tree lighting ceremony for chronically ill kids. It went beautifully, but when I got home and discovered I just missed tucking my baby into bed, I was a wreck. All I could think was, how do moms do this? How did my mom do this? Late that night I was as actually happy to wake up at 1 and 4 and 6 a.m. to feed and snuggle my little one. I didn’t know how I was going to leave her for eight hours that day and worried over whether or not I’d left enough milk for her. This must be the Italian mama in me. You know the ones who cook the ten course meal and wonder if that’s enough. In any case, getting back into the swing of things went more smoothly than I expected. It helped that the other artist and dancer I worked with are amazing and that one of the first patients I met said she loved, loved, loved Shakespeare. What I didn’t expect was how much it would affect me to see unwell babies and their parents.

A few weeks ago, I created the word, mom-athy. Now I feel that its definition needs to be expanded. Evidently this sort of deep empathy extends not only to your own ailing child, but also to those of total strangers. You don’t usually take an infant to the hospital unless something is very wrong, so you can imagine the condition of the babies I saw when I first walked through the automatic doors.

Most of my first year working at the hospital I was pregnant. Moms loved to ask me how I was feeling and to tell me about their experiences. Several of them remembered me upon my return and were thrilled to find out that I had a little girl and to see her picture. (I always thought people carried pictures with them to show off their progeny. Now I’m convinced it’s a way to deal with missing them.) I felt so grateful that the baby waiting for me to come home at the end of the day was healthy, and I felt and so deeply compassionate toward the moms who weren’t at the hospital to write stories and paint pictures. Then, I remembered that was what I was there to do.

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How Streaming Apps Have Changed The TV Scene

With the rise of giants like Netflix and Gamefly, I love any other options available to me. While I loved cable (and boy, I loved my cable), I was easily spending around $150 a month.

Yes, a month!

How is that? Because I loved my Showtime and HBO shows, the cable companies required you to get their upgraded packages, their highest level of services so you could add Showtime or HBO on top of that. Now, before Showtime and HBO came out with their “no TV required” apps, I remember wondering why they hadn’t gone down this route (like Netflix) years ago.

Finally, we have HBO Now which is a standalone service that streams online, allowing you to not have cable or subscribe to it. Now, you can watch all HBO shows on your phone or PC without having to pay $150 per month to these greedy cable companies.

Of course, other options such as PlayBox HD exist and can be easy to use if given a little bit of time. Once you set it up, there are too many movie choices for you to choose from. Of course, sometimes that can be the problem: too many choices can make you feel overwhelmed but in this case, options are great.

For those who don’t want to pay anything at ALL, you can always do an internet search and find more options. However, be careful of tons of pop-ups and shady viruses being thrown at your computer. Of course, you also have another popular option, an alternative to Netflix, such as Hulu.

Both of these options have quite a lot of variety. For instance, Netflix has a huge selection of movies and now, its own series that are becoming huge hits such as Bloodline, Chelsea, Gracie and Frankie, and Orange Is The New Black (to name a few). With PlayBox HD, you have the option of watching your favorite movies with convenience. With Hulu, there’s quite a variety including hit tv series that are made available often.

Combine Them & Still Better Than Cable!

If you were to do the math and get Netflix, PlayBox HD, and Hulu, hell, it’s still much cheaper than cable. It’s all a lot better than cable. Last month, I bought a Roku for under a $100 and have Netflix on it. I’m about to add HBO Now as well, bringing my total monthly bill to around $30. I can cancel any time, no monthly commitments and I can binge watch.

Plus, I don’t miss the invasive commercials. Who needs all of that? Invite your family and friends, pop some popcorn, grab dinner time snacks or sweets, and start your favorite movies on PlayBox HD. In fact, I prefer it over going to the movies as that tends to cost a lot. M&Ms and a soda for around $10 or movies for the month for around $12?

I think I know which way to go with this. There is no denying that these services save Americans a heck lot of money! Forget only Americans, as these go worldwide.

After all, aren’t we all citizens of the planet? These apps may as well benefit us all, no matter the location.

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How Far Apps Have Come

Man, I remember the 90s when the internet wasn’t really accessible to the public. I vaguely remember the mid-90s when AOL (as some of us may fondly remember it as America Online) became accessible… but only after my computer was heavily modified with a dial-up modem.

Yep, remember the nagging dial tone? The oddly disturbing and annoying phone calls interrupting your connection to the already sluggish online world?

I remember the first time I used AOL. I had NO clue about chatrooms, forums, none of it! I suppose no one really did. I thought using acronyms such as “lol”, “lmao”, and “haha” were odd.

Fast Forward To Today…

It all progressed so fast. Soon after AOL, many other dial-up internet service providers popped up. Heck, a few years later, perhaps early 2000s, broadband services were being offered. Good God! I will never forget getting cable internet for the first time and playing online multiplayer games this way.

My mind was blown!

Then came the iPhone and the Androids that continually blew my mind. These phone single-handedly murdered the need for GPS devices as well as stand-alone cameras for regular people. While I’d love to own a fancy lens camera, I can take some amazing, detailed images with my iPhone and have it posted to social media within seconds… how powerful is that?

What isn’t in the grasp of our fingertips? We have Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, dating apps, free gaming apps, everything downloadable and functioning within minutes. In fact, you can checkout the Facebook.com login and read about why you should have an account; perhaps even why it is beneficial to set one up.

In fact, let’s discuss why you should be on Facebook. While people will warn you against social media and its obvious dangers, you should also take into account the benefits of a social media presence. For instance, if you own a business, you can set up a Facebook page and show behind the scenes images. If you want a personal account for yourself, you can easily connect with family and friends and share important updates as well as images with them. How cool would it be to view your grandchildren’s pictures from a few states away? No longer do you have to wait to see them in person or mail each other pictures!

Most of these social media platforms work in a similar way. Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram are very similar in the sense that they are image heavy platforms. Twitter and Tumblr can be used for short updates. Facebook started off for restricted university and college students and now can be used by anyone. You can use it for all types of updates.

However, if you sign up for more than one social application at a time, you will quickly feel overwhelmed. I am quite a tech savvy person but with new applications becoming trendy every couple of months, it’s hard to keep up and I find myself attached to 1-2 platforms at any given time, mainly Instagram and Facebook.

The question is: do you find these social applications fun and easy to use?

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Why Weddings Can Become A Nightmare :/

Tying the knot is always a wonderful thing but as the initial excitement wears off, couples soon become overwhelmed. Why overwhelmed? As they start putting thought into their wedding plans, they start realizing how hard planning their wedding can be and also, how expensive it can be; getting it all sorted out, however, is the beastly task and is the overall most stressful part that couples usual endure.

For starters, setting a budget ahead of time is crucial. The couple needs to decided on one, where the ceremony will take place, whether they should hire a wedding planner who can organize all the details and save them hours of stress and time, and if their parents will help them financially.

Will they get married at San Francisco’s City Hall or
another fancy option? Will the cake be included with the food or will the couple hire a specific baker just for a nice cake?

Weddings Cost Too Much!

As easy as such a beautiful event should be, they, on average, can cost a crippling amount. That’s why the city hall can be a great option for some of the couples. And the question that kills most people? The Guest List! Believe it or not, most arguments are over how many guests will be invited to the official ceremony and who will be seated at which table, along with which family members will be sitting at the “official” table.

Forget that: what about the flavours of the cake? Or what will be the official wedding song for the couple? How about the Mother and Son dance song? Jealousies can easily arise among family members. There have been plenty of weddings that almost haven’t happened!

wedding meme

For a successful wedding, it is quite important… in fact, mandatory, for the couple to get a handle on things ahead of time so outside influences do not add additional stresses (yes, outside influences implies family members, as hard as that can be for some people to swallow!)

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How To Build Team Camaraderie

It’s really funny because corporate events are supposed to be entertaining but most of them can be drab and boring. Some of the happiest employees are ones that are allowed to have fun, to be creative, and feel like they are heard. When your employees feel this way within their work environment, you are building a successful team.

To have a successful team, you not only need to create a nurturing and productive environment, but you should also build team camaraderie. How does you do this?

You should plan monthly team activities whether it is meeting the team at a restaurant for dinner or drinks or a fun get together at an amusement park. You can also share company savings/group buys on tickets this way.

Of course, once a year or more, the company should definitely put on a corporate event or fair. Why? What are the advantages of doing this?

Again, there is a lot to be said about building the morale of your company’s team. You are responsible for building the “right culture”.

For instance, one of my friend’s workplace threw a very cool event. They hired Juggling Inferno as they held a ton of positive reviews from the community. In fact, I haven’t seen anything close to this as I got to see jugglers, performs that would glow (“glow performers”), as well as fire performers.

Each of the performers was really at the top of their game! People were actually mesmerized by the performances and interacting with performers. It’s as if people forgot they were supposed to be at a corporate event! Childlike wonder became the theme of the party.

My friend’s team spoke of the events for weeks to come. They even took pictures from the events which were later framed. For the few who were not able to make it, the ones who did make it made sure to let them know what a good time they had.

In the end, we’re all humans and we all want work to feel a little bit less like… “work”. The best thing to do, as an employer, is to keep your employees happy.

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Various Options For Charging Your Phone

One of the biggest problems I have experienced, shortly after owning an iPhone, is that the wires of the charger and the earphones give out within the first few months, without fail. It seems that the quality just isn’t there for the charger.

To make matters worse, the iOS 9 on the iPhone 6/6S, the battery life was supposed to be elongated. However, disappointingly, this was NOT the case.

What is pretty cool about iOS 9 is that you are able to see a breakdown of which applications are using what amount of battery. Talk about being specific! To do this, go into “Settings”, then “General”, then “Usage”, and finally, “Battery Usage”.

There is not much to do here other than monitor your apps or buy an extra iPhone charger or two. I am glad that I have invested in a couple of chargers, even a car charger.

One of the most draining apps on the iPhone (arguable any Smart Phone!) is the Facebook app. The reason for this is due to the auto-play feature for videos. Why, by default, it is set to auto-play, who knows as that not only eats up tons of data but also drains the battery of your iPhone.

To turn auto-play off, go to “Settings”, “Facebook”, “Settings”, “Auto-“Play”, then select “Wi-Fi Only” or “Off.”

Easy enough!

In case you want fancier options… the iPhone’s charge and sync docks have a built in 8-pin connection (or a 30-pin connection), depending on which model you choose. Heck, some docks come with some sweet displays or even a speaker that will beautifully play music from your iPhone while charging. Some of these docks are compatible with iPods and iPads.

charging stations

Of course, sometimes I find that my iPhone is dead when I head out for work or groceries. In such cases, a car charger can be a life saver. Now, with these, if you’re heading on a long drive, it makes sense to invest in a good one, even if that means spending more than usual.

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Taking Time Off Or Working Extra Hard For The Holidays?!

Being a writer, it has been extremely important for me to juggle my work and life balance.  For instance, it’s “that time of the year”, meaning the holidays where whether I like it or not, not only do the bills have to get paid, but I also have to bake a few extra “goodies”, but holiday cards for my friends (hey, it’s tradition), and gifts for very close friends.

This is the time of the year I take on extra work, extra gigs to help with these things.  While I do some ghost writing, I also write articles for certain sites.  During my off time, I love to catch up on the newest of fiction and non-fiction books (those recommendations coming soon!)

Some interesting gifts for people within my family circle.  Sheesh.  As much as I love them, what a costly bunch!  Here’s what’s on the list:

  • GameStop Store For Playstation 4 Video Games (at least two my nephew and niece requested!)
  • Killer Kayaks: Best Inflatable Kayaks (apparently there’s such things and apparently they’re affordable, according to oldest nephew :/ )
  • Hiking Shoes For My Sister (I’d rather just give her an Amazon Gift Card)
  • Books, books, books (5 new ones for myself, I have yet to decide!)

A part of me, well a big part of me knows that the holidays have become all about going into debt; this is when credit card / banks are booming and Christmas shoppers are going crazy trying to please their families, relatives, and friends.

Whatever happened to getting together and just bonding?  But, I can’t deny that giving presents to the little ones doesn’t warm up my heart a bit.  I do love giving presents, much more than receiving them unless they’re hand made, as sappy as that may sound.

But heck, I’ll just do a few extra gigs so I can afford a few extra smiles.  How about you?!

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I think I need a Cleaning Lady…

cleanliness-godlinessI’m a mom, and I pride myself on making my home to be neat and tidy all the time.  I like taking care of my kids and being able to come home to a clean house.  I don’t mind cleaning, in fact, sometimes I enjoy it.  Nothing pleases me like a fresh, clean house on a spring sunday morning.

BUT…

I think I’m done for a while.  I’ve never had a cleaning lady in my life but I’m starting to consider it.  It’s been a long summer and it’s gearing up to be a long winter, and during that time I’ve spent a pretty big amount of time just keeping up around the house.  I’ve tried to take on some side ventures, start a few hobby projects, but house work has just started to get in the way.

I always considered having a cleaning lady to be a big “posh” or “snooty”.  Growing up we never had one, I always thought it was sort of like having a butler or something, that only really rich people could have one.   Now that I’m looking into it, however, it’s actually no bad at all.  It’s not like they are living with you or anything, they just come in once a week or whatever.  Just a couple of hours and maybe they get 50 bucks or something for their time.  It’s not a bad wage and it’s worth it for me to spend $200 a month and save several hours.  I found a few companies, (one aptly named house cleaning Denver) and I’m considering taking them on.  Ideally though, I would find someone who I could work directly with, instead of giving a cut to “the man”, as it were.

This is especially true now that I’m busy.  If I wasn’t busy I might consider just saving the money, but I have it and it’s not much to spend, so I don’t mind.  I also think it’s good that I can start focusing more on my various activities and achieving new things, rather than just focusing on day to day chores and activities.  I saw a Facebook meme the other day with an apparent quote from John Rockefeller, “If you work all day, you’ll have no time to make money”.  Rings a bit true, I think.  If I’m constantly busy with just the day-to-day minutiae (pun intended, ha!) of life, I won’t have time to actually start achieving what I’d like to do.

I also don’t mine employing a cleaning lady.  I always thought that cleaning ladies are someone’s mom or grandma and they are just trying to pull in a little bit of money to stay afloat, so If I find a nice one, I think it would be a good thing, a good use of my money.  It’s not everyday that you get to support a hard working woman who is trying to pull together a little extra bread.  Most of the time I’m spending money at starbucks or some other billionaire owned conglomerate, the least I could do would be put some money in the pockets of the people!

But I disgress… In the end, I’ll see how I feel about getting some help around the house tomorrow… For now, it’s off to sleep!

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Minutiae To Bear In Mind When Taking Up Walking

w1Recently, I have been very stressed out by my job. I am a fairly resilient woman, but the problem with stress is that it will eventually break up everyone. I’ve worked 55 hour weeks for 5 months straight, and it started getting to me. I started eating more to cope with the stress. I started losing sleep and it only made me gain weight even quicker than I already was. Unfortunately, I need to watch my weight while I am working for long times in a row. The fact that I have a sitting desk job does not exactly help my predicament. When the time came for me to take some time off, I decided that I was going to take up walking as a new hobby, with the intent of getting enough training that I will eventually be able to go hiking.

When I was a younger (read: not yet a very busy mom), I was much more outgoing and active. I had a much easier time staying thin back then. I have tried joining a gym, but it is not really my thing. I would rather be outside. And since I have gained some weight and are, at the moment of writing, fairly pudgy, I really needed to get the best walking shoes for women that I could find. As it turns out, there is a lot to say for spending a few more bucks on a high quality pair of walking shoes. You can’t just barge into any old shoe store, grab whatever is on sale and then be done with it. Just as Brian from the Boot Bomb. He has an interesting page up on his site about walking shoes for heavy people. Especially if you are planning on taking hikes later down the road, like I am. It’s true that high quality walking shoes will cost more, but it is totally worth it in my opinion.

The Importance Of High Quality Walking Shoes

The problem with low quality shoes is that they tend to make you worse off than what you started with. If you are walking around on low support shoes that only cost $50, then you are quickly going to wear them out and you are at risk of developing all sorts of conditions from that. I myself have been ‘blessed’ by mother nature with flat feet, which cause me to over pronate. And i you have flat feet as well, then I am sure you can understand how important it is to have decent support in your walking footwear. I have already had plantar fasciitis in the past, and it is nothing to scoff at. For those of you who do not know what plantar fasciitis is… it is an extremely painful foot condition that is going to give you the worst time ever. It is more painful than any other foot condition out there.

Hikers suffer from it a lot. But so do overweight people. Plantar fasciitis, also called policeman’s heel, is caused by having too much of a strain on your feet for too long a time. It is partly hereditary, so some people will have more of a tendency towards developing this condition than others. Joggers are also at risk of getting it, as are people who have standing work, such as people who work in retail. The fact of the matter is that plantar fasciitis is much worse than blisters, calluses, heelspur and other ailments that the human foot can possibly develop. You will want to avoid this condition at all times, since it is extremely painful, lowers the quality of your life and generally makes life miserable. Oh, and it also takes just as long to get rid of as it does to develop. So once you start feeling a sharp shooting pain through your foot when you are getting up in the morning, then you will know it’s high time to start wearing decent shoes.

This is especially important if you want to go hiking. Hiking is much more strenuous than mere walking. So if you have plantar fasciitis and want to cure it, then you are going to need the best boots for plantar fasciitis that money can buy. Check these out if you want to see a really good assortment of boots that will help you with this. You can also wear these if you don’t have plantar fasciitis, but you want to prevent it at all costs. This will most likely be the case if you have ever had it and don’t want to ever have it again, because you know from first hand experience how incredibly painful it is.

Meditative Walking As A Way Of Growth

Not only am I very fond of being out in nature, I am also very fond of meditation. What can I say… I like to take care of both my mind as well as my body, you know what I am saying? I believe in taking care of oneself holistically, so that one can be sure of maximized growth, which isn’t hampered by any bottle necks. And meditative walking is a great way of taking care of both your body as well as your mind. During regular meditation, you have got to focus on your breath. Every time a thought tries to enter your head, you simply let it go and go right back to focussing on the breath. With walking meditation, you simply need to focus on some point far ahead of you and give it all your focus. Either that, or you give all your focus to the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, one step after another. Focus on the sensation of walking. Focus on one leg being put in front of the other constantly. By remaining focused on a single thing, you will put yourself in touch with this moment. You will live in the present. It is an almost zen-like experience.

Naturally, you will have to make both walking as well as meditation a permanent part of your life, if you want to see the long term results of it. Any physical exercise is better than no physical exercise at all. But truth be told, you can’t go for one really good walk and then expect to reap all the health benefits related to walking for the rest of your life. This is really a long term commitment. And once you’ve got a steady pair of shoes on your feet, you are going to have a much easier time taking up your new walking hobby and, more importantly, hanging onto it. Sure, it’s hard to get started. But the fact is that it’s never going to be harder than it is right now. So if you know what’s good for you, you will make a plan and start today. You know it’s the right thing to do!

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Late Night Flooding

So I was reading back some of my old blog posts and I realized that most of my observations and commentaries were about relatively abstract things. I complain about my mother a bit, not getting famous, snow drifts, etc. etc. I realized there was not much down-to-earth commentary. Well that is about to change. Last night I had myself a good old fashion overnight plumbing emergency, along with all the great fun (sarcasm) of broken pipes and flooded basements. What a charming experience. Now that I’ve gotten it all taken care of, and the frustration and tiredness out of my system, I can sit down and put my thoughts on paper.

It was about 11PM and I had just finished up an excellent book I have been reading (“Better” by Atul Gawande, an excellent book about striving for performance in medicine and other fields, but I digress) and I was about to hop in the shower before going to bed. I get into the bathroom and I notice the floor was wet. I thought this strange because I hadn’t used the bathroom or showered since this morning, and the moisture/condensation is usually long gone by the time I get home in the evening/nighttime.

Lo and behold the water is coming from under the sink! I investigate further and I see that the water seems to be spouting from the pipe underneath the sink. Starting to panic, I don’t know what exactly to do. I live in my own home so I don’t have a landlord or super to call for help. I start pacing back and forth before I remember there is a shutoff valve that I was once told about. There is one is the bathroom itself, so maybe that will work. I go in, find the valve (near the wall next to the toilet) and pull it tight in whatever direction it will budge (I don’t know if it’s on or off).

Doing this seems to work. And it looks like the crisis is averted for now. I still need to get a plumber and figure out what the heck is going on, because I need to have running water in my bathroom, but nonetheless, I don’t have to worry about any more flooding or leaking pipes tonight. Or so I thought.

Going downstairs I am now relegated to the fact that I won’t shower tonight, and I will have to call a plumber in the morning. I start to settle and calm down a bit and go to the kitchen to get some water before bed. I start to hear a weird “swishing” sound and I can’t quite figure out what it is. I follow it a bit and realize it’s coming from the basement. Starting to feel a trickle of panic I open the basement door, look down, and see a fucking mess. There is water at least a foot deep, the swishing is coming from a busted pipe somewhere and water is gushing out. I see papers and books FLOATING IN THE WATER. I can’t believe it, something like this has never happened to me.

Now I panic. What do I do? I almost freak out and call 911, but realize this isn’t that kind of emergency, I just need an emergency plumber, so I google “emergency plumber nyc” and frantically click on the first result that I see. I talk with a man who must have dealt with people like me his entire life because he was so helpful and calm, it really calmed me down. He eventually said he would be there in 20 minutes and to just sit tight.

It was time for me to have a drink. I don’t usually drink but I figured if I was ever going to have a martini at 1 AM, this was going to be the time. So I sat and waited for him, panicking the whole time.

Long story short (too late) is he came and fixed the problem. Brought a wet-dry vac and started getting the water out of the basement. Said we would come back with a better pump to do the rest of it.

Thank god for him! What a night!

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Clean Laundry (Room), Clean Conscience

So I left home the other day not sure what I was going to do with my day. I walked and pondered the universe for a few hours, and it was a really nice time. I came home with a renewed energy to get my house in order. My laundry room had always annoyed me, because it wasn’t the most polished and nice looking room. It was more utilitarian, with baskets and detergents, tables for folding clothes and an extra sink. It was really like an old washroom which has been modified to fit some tables and the washing machines. There was no custom paint, no cute little wall decals, and no aura of cleanliness and homey feel that I think a good laundry room should have. My hours of wandering and pondering brought me to the conclusion that I need to change this.

My first order of business was to take account of what I had and the condition it was in. Firstly, the washing machines themselves were a bit old. I’ve had them for at least 5 years, and while they seem OK, they are quite loud and have taken to break every year or so, requiring a visit from the repair man. Perhaps I should consider some nice, shiny, new washing machine/dryer combos? I know, a bit expensive, but I think it may be worth it. I’ll have to do some research (EDIT: found this site which is very helpful) and make a decision on that.

Next up was the wall paper (or lack thereof) and the paint. I wanted to add a much nicer color scheme, something like a bright white with blue lining. It would give it a bright and clean feel, as opposed to dark, dusty, dirty, and oppressing. It would also pave the way for some wall decals, wooden panels with funny/corny quips about laundry or home life, stuff like that (I’ve seen a few examples at my friends houses and I want to mimic them). This shouldn’t be too hard to do and should certainly be less expensive than brand new machines.

Finally I think I’d like to rearrange the spacing. I’d want to maybe make some more space, perhaps by using a stackable washer/dryer combo. This would give me more space to add folding areas, and open up the atmosphere, perhaps even giving more room for light to come in through the window. More light is key to giving the clean and open feel (which reminds me, I should probably just clean the windows more).

So what do you think? Any other ideas how I can revamp my laundry room and move away from a Tide-filled dungeon to a Norman Rockwell painting? I’d love to hear them…

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