Kitchen Planning, sequel.

Have I mentioned that we’re remodeling the kitchen at the O.K. Chorale? It’s all consuming, and we haven’t even started demo. We’re still planning. Details, details, details!

Chuck and I made a trip to Lowe’s – again. We have wandered the aisles in search of wisdom in cabinet design, color (paint or stain?), handles and knobs, under-cabinet lighting, and more. I didn’t know that so many decisions were involved.

Add to the sheer number of decisions the fact that Chuck and I work opposite shifts. We communicate a lot by text message and email, but any true conversation and discussion have to happen on a weekend. This is dragging out the process longer and longer.

We’re close, though. We’re close to calling the designer and telling her, “We’re ready! Here are the details! Let’s make an order!” And then the real work begins.

Due to the age of our house (built 1890), every single element has to be custom. We’ll place the order, and then we’ll wait for the cabinets to be built. Meanwhile, we have a long to-do list to prepare for this project.

  • Empty the cupboards, upper and lower
  • Store the contents of the cupboards somewhere – anywhere.
  • Set up a temporary “kitchen” in another room.
  • Set up coffeemaker in another room.
  • Invest in disposable dishes OR make a plan for washing dishes without a sink.
  • Empty the refrigerator and freezer to prepare for moving this appliance.
  • Make room for computer desk and bookshelf currently in dining room
  • Find temporary storage for dining room table and chairs
  • Cancel cleaning service until project is done
  • Remind selves that we will enjoy the new kitchen for many years before selling even comes on the radar, at which time the lovely kitchen will be a major advantage.

Meanwhile, life as we know it continues.

Feeling Fortunate

Chuck likes to say, “Good intentions ain’t worth squat.” I have to agree, even when my good intentions are the ones fading off into the distance.

I intended to get out of the house and walk every day during winter break. Mother Nature had other ideas. We are in the midst of below zero temperatures plus wind chill, making outdoor activity unlikely to say the least. Brrrr.

I also intended to spend some quality time with La Petite shopping in the post-Christmas sales. Instead, we’re huddling under new blankets (gifts) and sipping coffee and leftover mulled apple cider.

Instead of grumbling over lost goals (the afore-mentioned intentions), I’m feeling lucky. I have a home, blankets, coffee, and more. I’m warm and cozy. Missing the chances to go outside and spend money? No problem. Staying home in this case is a good thing, intentional or not.

And So It Goes.

It’s one of those days – one of those days when I wonder why I keep saying yes instead of no, one of those days when I’m really not sure if I am caught up or can get caught up at home or at work, just one of those days.

Meanwhile, I plug away.

Laundry. Why does Mount Washmore look taller than usual? Oh, yeah, I dug out another pair of jeans for myself and picked up three or four items at a thrift store. It’s Sunday, too. I normally get the clothes washed on Saturday. One day, amazingly enough, makes a difference.

Linens and things. I finally folded the tablecloths and napkins from Thanksgiving and stored them with the big roasting pan and the gravy boat. I use these once a year. If they took up more space, I’d toss them on the rummage sale pile and sell them. As it is, the gravy boat, tablecloths, and the matching napkins all fit inside the roasting pan. Perfect.

Rummage sale! I have all the curtains we took down before putting new windows in the great room. I washed them, but they still need to be measured. These are worth buying, if the right buyer comes along, and the right buyer will want to know the sizes. I have all the curtain rods, too. More to measure, more to sell.

I was asked to write an article for Teaching Today, a state publication. I said yes. I could have said no, sorry, please ask me again when my workload is lighter. I could have even asked for pay – but asking is harder than it seems. I have a skill: writing coherently. When I use this skill, I make my employer look good. I enjoy the process and the results; but working for free feels, well, cheap. Readers, I’ll link to the article when it’s up and running. I’ll consider the feedback to be my reward.

The last time-taker lies on my own shoulders. Once again I’m applying to be a teacher curriculum reviewer for the national level of my school organization. I’m investing in this time because 1, I believe I can do the job well; 2, it looks good in my files when I’m up for observation; 3, this position actually pays.

In conclusion, I can get caught up on the laundry and set aside the rummage sale items for spring. I wrote a draft of the article on Friday between classes. It needs revisions and tweaks; it’s kind of boring in it’s first incarnation. Maybe I can make reference to a children’s book or a seasonal song in each paragraph to keep the readers’ attention. Yes, that could work.

Oh, no, I forgot something: holiday shopping! Aaargh! I might never get caught up!

Readers, what’s on your minds? How are you keeping up?


The Expansion Explosion

We were only gone overnight – just a short visit to La Petite. We came home to find this.

I’m a public school teacher, so my first instinct was to look for evidence of vandalism. Rocks? Any windows broken? Nope, nothing. This online gig, with my students scattered all over the state, keeps me safer than teaching in the neighborhood school, if nothing else.

I sent a picture to La Petite. She suggested a poltergeist holding a Fourth of July party while we were gone.

We asked our neighbor about weather. Any hail? High winds? Nope. However, the neighbor had been working on the far side of his house during the hottest part of the day when he heard an explosion. He circled his house and found nothing – nothing, that is, except more neighbors asking, “What the heck was that?”

To jump straight to the conclusion, the glass tabletop had expanded one time too many. It withstood many winters and summers, cold and hot and in between, and it just couldn’t take one more overheated day.

A friend confirmed the possibility. She’d worked for a glass company for many years and she actually had the same experience with an “exploding” tempered glass tabletop. Like us, she expects to find stray shards of glass under her deck for a long, long time.

Frankly, I almost prefer the poltergeist theory. Peeves, what it you?


Good Intentions & Container Gardening

I had good intentions of sharing indoor and outdoor (mostly outdoor) progress day by day. Those good intentions evaporated with the puddles on a windy day. One accomplishment was filling the crocks with plants. So far, none have been over watered – intentionally or from the rain. I must have given them enough drainage before I filled them with soil.

The Crock Garden

Just a few feet away sits the Rock Garden. In the rock garden is a large bucket filled with mint.

Mint – confined to a container

The irony here comes in the fact that I established a rock garden in the first place to take the place of the out-of-control mint. Using cardboard barriers, a lot of 20 mule team borax, and patience, I managed to get rid of the wild mint and build up a decorative and fun rock garden. That’s Amigo’s alter ego on the left: the frog playing cello.

Goals – inside, outside

It’s summertime – the approximate ten week period that passes for a “break” in our oddly outdated agrarian school calendar. In the old, old bygone days, students would help at home on the farm in spring, summer, and then harvest season in the fall. School terms might be limited to winter or some of the town and city kids might come in early fall while the farm families kept their children home to work the land.

But I digress.

It’s summertime, and the living is relatively easy. I can sleep in, but I don’t. My body clock is set firmly between 6 and 7 A.M. I’m up and at ’em, coffee cup in hand. Up and at what? That’s where the goals come in.

I’ve decided to make one indoor goal and one outdoor goal. Daily tasks such as loading, running, and emptying the dishwasher don’t count. Watering the garden and the containers doesn’t count, either. It’s a necessity.

Yesterday the outdoor goal was to fix up the rock garden. That entailed getting rocks and sculptures and misc. from the garage and placing it strategically in the rock garden. Inside? Clean the bunny cage & replace used litter box with clean box.

The goals are a minimum. I don’t stop there. Having definite goals, no matter how small, keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. “I must get more done! Must accomplish! Must do, go, achieve!” Nope. It’s a long break, and it’s a break. Setting and meeting goals is good for my mental health. Meeting goals allows me to let go of the gotta-get-it-done attitude and relax.

That said, here are today’s main goals. Indoors: laundry. Outdoors: lift pallet garden to a steeper angle. Chuck helped with that one.

And now, while I wait for the first load of laundry to rinse and spin, I can relax.

Readers, do you set goals? Give yourself permission to take care of yourself? Leave comments. I’d like to know.

The 40 Bags in 40 Days Project Ends

I could have ended the post title with “unsuccessfully”. I did not manage to remove from the house something significant each day of 40. I did, however, manage to pare down quite a bit and learn a few lessons from the project.

Lesson 1: Any project that requires daily participation has the risk of failure. Between teaching, handling Amigo’s schedule, adjusting to Chuck’s new job, and life in general, there will be days that I simply can’t invest the time and energy in a side project.

Lesson 2: Projects are easy at first; they get harder. The Purge the Clutter project, as I nicknamed it, started to get more challenging about 15 days in. That makes sense, too; the easy excess was easy to toss. I had to search and think through later pieces.

Lesson 3: Major pieces in the project took more than one day. The piano, for example. We’re still working on it. Expect updates along the way.

Maybe I didn’t succeed in tossing or donating bags of goods every day. I can’t feel like the project failed, though. I did clean out quite a bit, and I set aside a batch of items for a June garage sale. Eventually, I’ll take to clearing spaces again, but without the Each Day Every Day pressure.

The 40 Bag Project and Books

I’m making a serious effort to keep up with this de-cluttering project. I had a rough morning today, though. I decided to go through a box of books leftover from my classroom days. Classroom libraries are a source of joy and a major cost factor for most teachers. I managed to donate mine to a new teacher when I moved to teaching online, but there are still a few boxes in the house. I went through one this morning. It wasn’t easy.

I listed several on my Paperbackswap account. One has already been requested. I have great hopes for more to fly out the door by way of the Post Office. There were a few, however, that I couldn’t post.

Three didn’t have ISBN numbers. Yes, readers, I have books old enough that they don’t carry that magic number. Without it, I couldn’t post them on the swap site.

Then there was the domino effect. I attempted to stack the new entries in the bookshelf with the others, but there wasn’t enough room. My solution: sort through the contents of the shelf and make room. I managed to group several folders together so they didn’t take up quite as much space, and I also found ancient paperwork worthy of the shredder. I reorganized so that all garden-themed books (not going anywhere, thank you very much) have one section of the shelves and all textbook types are together in another.

At this point the table was covered with piles of books and my laptop, open to the “Post Books” tab on Paperback Swap. Craziness, eh? More so than you realize; we had a meeting scheduled in less than an hour and we’d need the table by then. I did manage to get the books back on a shelf, power down and stash the laptop, and wipe down the table before our meeting began.

And I haven’t even mentioned the books I didn’t post or set aside for an upcoming rummage sale: a Leo Lionni, a Tomie dePaola Strega Nona book, and a couple more that need to be stored with others of their kind in the attic.

Books. It’s not easy being green when it comes to literature. I might sort through the garden stack again – or maybe not. It’s a good season for selling those to Half Price Books; it’s also a good season to browse through a few of my favorites.

Books. It’s not easy being green when it comes to the written word. Heaven help me if I ever have to decide between books and shoes for shelf space.

40 Bags in – Well, Approaching 40 Bags.

The 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge got difficult about a week ago. Chuck and I kind of hit the wall. Part of that was schedule related. I had some long days and a lot of grading to do. Chuck was working some mandatory overtime, and he needed to carve out time to sleep somewhere in his 24 hour cycles. Excuses aside, we weren’t keeping up.

And then Chuck started the Piano Project. We’ve been looking at our antique baby grand piano, a lovely piece of furniture with many memories, just as lovely. No one in the home currently plays piano, unless it’s in the guise of helping Amigo learn his barbershop music. For that purpose, we bought a Yamaha electronic keyboard. It works well and takes up very little space.

The piano is now destined to be repurposed and upcycled. Can an object be both? This one can. Chuck is currently taking it apart, piece by piece, with a goal of creating bookshelves. As he’s working, we are storing all the pieces. This isn’t helping the de-junking project, but it is going to help create space in a big way.

What’s that keyboard doing on my fireplace mantel?

The felt hammers needed to rest in the living room. That’s Amigo’s Spark Plug award on the left, a white elephant gift in the middle, and a cactus on the right.

A cactus in a tuba. Every home should have one.

Meanwhile, Chuck is working diligently to loosen the strings and remove the sound board of this lovely instrument. I pulled out the dampers today and set them aside.

When the project is done, I’ll post a few “After” shots. I think you’ll like it, readers. Maybe you’ll even forget that I didn’t make it to 40 bags in 40 days. Instead, we attacked a major family project.

40 Bags in 40 Days

Final Jeopardy Category was Religion. The answer read, “Famous Catholics who’ve publicly answered this question include Susan Boyle (sweets) & Paul Ryan (beer).” The question?

“What are you giving up for Lent?” Of course. Now if you’re not Catholic (I’m not), Lent might not be a time of personal sacrifice. In Wisconsin, Lent might be an opportunity to find the best Friday Fish Fries.

Let’s go a different angle on the “giving up” philosophy. I’ve been slowly and steadily de-junking and de-cluttering our home. My process is fairly simple. I keep an old, worn out laundry basket in my closet, and every time I find something to donate to a thrift store, it goes in the basket. When the basket is full, I take inventory and go to a donation site. The basket doesn’t come home, either – it was worn out or breaking apart, anyway.

I saw the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge and thought, “Sure, why not? This will speed up the process of what I’m already doing. Maybe my blogger and reader friends would like to join in, too.” So just in case you’re interested, here are the main links.

Here’s the basic explanation.

You can also like or follow her Facebook page.

Rather than throw out or donate a full bag each day, I’m either throwing something away, tossing a stack into the donation basket, or setting aside something for a potential summer garage sale. No matter what, the “something” will be significant. A tiny key ring or scarf will not be enough to qualify. Can the significance be emotional rather than size? Maybe. I’ll see how it goes.

I started today by sorting through a basket of linens I bought at an online estate auction. The napkins I’ll keep. The bandannas from various fundraisers will go in the donation basket. The basket itself will go out in the sale in June. The scarves? I don’t know yet. I might run them through the laundry and then decide if I’ll wear them, sell them, or send them off in the basket.

I’m not ending with a question for you, readers, not this time. I’m asking myself: can I make it? My prediction is yes. After all, I’m still making room for all the canning jars I bought a few months ago.