Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Proverbs 25 Woman

My Sunday School class will be studying some proverbs this morning. Among them, we’ll study this one:

Proverbs 25:24
Better to live in the corner of a roof than to share a house with a quarrelsome wife...

This will be a post of uncharacteristic brevity. I have much to do this morning to get ready for church. On top of it all, I have to go and retrieve the husband. For some peculiar reason, the oddball is outside…

...sitting here

Happy Sunday!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Case of the Missing Copper Pennies

Today, my next thing was to reorganize the recipes in my recipe box. It was a long overdue reorganization, pretty much brought to the front burner the day that I made those copper pennies for my meal on wheels. Stressful meal on wheels preparation is often accompanied by the recipe box lamentation.

The story unfolded that day much as it usually does: I headed to my little box to find the copper pennies. At that point, I was humming, as usual, with delusions of Betty Crocker in my head. I began flipping through the box in time to my little tune… Within seconds, I noticed that the desired recipe was not at its assigned station. At this point, the fingers began that frantic little running motion back and forth over the files. The humming stopped and was replaced with the titch and sigh. Finally, I pulled out that wad of random paper which resides at the front of my box and proceeded to slap jack each one on the counter, hoping each time to flip over a winner. By now, I was no longer titching and sighing… I was muttering. SOMEBODY had obviously dropped my recipe box on the floor and just shoved the contents together willy nilly - thus causing all this recipe card commotion.

Now, nobody ever goes near that recipe box without my direction, and deep in my heart, I knew perfectly well that I was very likely the cause of the chaos. But at that very moment, I was not rational. I was in recipe card hunt overdrive...

I never did find the recipe for copper pennies that day. I don’t know why. It should have been so easy to spot… scribbled on a 2X3 inch strip of paper ripped from a mini tablet… I can’t imagine how it got misplaced. At last, I remembered that I had posted that recipe on my message board. It would have been so much easier had I remembered that tidbit before the copper penny caper began.

But then, I wouldn’t have been motivated to reorganize my file box. Again.

For whatever reason, I just can’t manage my recipe file. I have tried repeatedly to organize it. I cut and pasted recipes onto cute recipe cards. I color coded the categories…. A green card for vegetables…. Brown for meats… red for soups and stews…. Blue for beverages…

But inevitably, no matter how well I organize it, it ends up looking like this:

Yes, my “recipe file” is an old box from a pair of baby shoes. Size O. I have had this box --and this recurring problem-- since The Practical One was a baby. With all good intentions, I plan to keep my recipes filed neatly in that box. But inevitably, I get in a hurry or distracted, and well…

So today, I tackled the box. I copied, cut, and pasted recipes and reorganized them. I tossed dozens of recipes. Most had been ripped from magazines or printed from the computer but never tried anyway.

At the end of the day, I had my neat recipe box back, ready to try again. I don’t delude myself that it will stay that way, but a girl can hope. Plus, this time, I have a secret weapon.

This time, I decoupaged the box...

One final note: I have discovered that my next thing is easily determined by figuring out what is causing the most confusion in my daily routine or home…. And fixing it.

Yes I know, well, of course!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A little list update and a table for two

#90. Needlepoint tablecloths made by my grandmother

When we were younger, my grandmother began making tablecloths for each of her grandchildren. We would thumb through her little book of patterns and choose the style and color scheme that we wanted. When it was our turn, she would make it. In 1982, I chose mine; it was a forget- me- not pattern. That year, Grama was diagnosed with colon cancer. By the time they found it, it was too late to save her. She died just a few months later, never finishing the tablecloth that she had intended for me.

My forget-me-not still sits in a box, unfinished. I would consider finishing it myself were it not for the fact that I am the uncontested world’s worst hand stitcher. Oh, I’ve tried -repeatedly- to master that art, but either because I’m predominantly left handed or (likely) because I’m expedient and careless, my handiwork never quite follows the desired pattern and ends looking somewhat like those self- interpretive little ink blots on a rorschach test. And that's the front of the piece, not the back.

Being the baby of the family and the only tableclothless grandchild, everyone took pity on me. For Christmas that year, my brother gave me his own table cloth. Mom gave me one of hers as well, and when Grandpa died a few years later, I got the only one that Grama had ever made for herself. It’s my favorite.

I love my made~with~ love tablecloths, but I have never- not a single time - used one until Saturday.

Aside from the obvious fear that I would stain or ruin them in some way, the main reason that I haven’t used them is that, frankly, I have never been able to set a pretty table with them. I may not be the world’s best cook, but I do love to set a pretty table. Since Grama’s table cloths were made in the 70s, they tend to be those quirky colors from that era, colors like orange and avocado and turquoise.

My eighties era dishes have colors like colonial blue, sage, and rose. I’ve tried using my simple white dishes, but they just look drab and pathetic against those tablecloths.

And that’s how Grama’s linens ended up on THE LIST.

Saturday, when the husband and I were home alone for the evening, I decided to try a table for two with Grama's tablecloths…my favorite one, the one (of course) with all the orange in it.

I tried setting off the white plates with gold chargers, but I still didn't like it. Since my chargers are just cheapo ones that I scored for a dollar apiece when junking at Big Lots, I decided to sacrifice two of them for the cause. I thought about painting or decoupage but chose instead to make them semi- reusable by applying the same principle that I would use if starching fabric to a wall.

So I after I traced a little pattern, cut some fabric, painted a few coats of Kilz and some gold paint, and starched some orange fabric to the inside ring, I ended up with a bright orange and gold charger to set off those plain white dishes.

I think I like this. When I want to remove or change the fabric, all I have to do is peel it off and apply a new one. I just may have found one way to use some of the other fabric on THE LIST too, especially all of those seasonal fabrics of good intention which sit unused… in a box… behind a door in innie paradise.

So I set the table.

And then, the husband helped me out 
with a little Scottish tablescaping.

Oh yes, he did. Bright yellow butter wannabe and store brand parmesan pretender… right on my whimsical orange table for two…. with candles no less…

Sometimes, they just don’t get it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Polish Tupperware

This morning, my next thing was to clean the refrigerator in the garage. If there is one task that I hate more than any in housewife land, it’s cleaning that wasteland of forgotten fuzzy leftovers in that garage refrigerator. It’s so much easier to pretend that I don’t notice the suspicious odor when I need to retrieve something. There are only two things that make me clean out that refrigerator: Either the odor becomes so strong that it penetrates the three inch, insulated barrier sealed with a gasket, or the reason that I did it today.

My mother told me to…

Ok… she didn’t exactly order me to do it. It was more an implied assignment. You see, the only two people in the entire world who call me by my given name are the husband and my mother. The difference is in the syllabication. In contrast to the husband, the mother usually sings out my name with three syllables. Therefore, when she snips it off at two, I know that she is annoyed, and I know that I’m most likely driving too fast, abusing a grandprincess, or hoarding her Polish Tupperware. Yesterday, when I got the “Deb-rah” - with a sigh - as she was standing in front of her cupboard, I knew that what was to follow was the Polish Tupperware lamentation.

Polish Tupperware is what we call the peculiar collection of Cool Whip containers that Mom uses to send leftovers after Sunday dinner. ~ No offense intended to those of Polish descent, by the way. In my very ethic household, Dad was German, and Mom, English- Italian. Therefore, anything just too oddball for either one to claim kinship was “Polish”. This has caused the family to speculate a time or two that I was truly the love child of some random Polish milkman. ~

It isn’t the thrifty reuse of the Cool Whip containers which lands them on the oddball list. It is the fact that Mom expects us to wash and return the containers to her after we use them. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of not using actual Tupperware?  Yes, it does.

In my mother’s love language, food is an action verb. When Mom “foods” you, she shows that she loves you. In receiving it, you show that you love her back. She stacks her containers in a neat little Polish tower in her cupboard. When the tower shrinks, she suspects that someone with a two syllable name has disregarded her gift of love.

So that’s why I had to clean that fridge this morning. When I do it, I want to kick myself at the waste of perfectly delicious food that could have and should have been incorporated into my food plan.

This morning I found things like macaroni and cheese, corn chowder, and brown rice. I even found this  peeking out from behind a Polish tower...

 It’s my daughter’s favorite pie. And it’s sugar free. And yes, it was already green when it went in there. However, I did find some black olives which I’m almost positive were green when they went in there too.

So then I had a sink full of containers which I had to scrub by hand before I sanitized them in the dishwasher.

All the while, I thought of the people of Haiti and the African Mission that I support and how very grateful they would be for that food. And I thought about my round Italian mother and her Polish gift of love. And I thanked God for his blessings and committed myself to be much more appreciative of them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Meals on Wheels

So yesterday, for the second time in less than a week, I found myself fixing a comfort meal to bring to a friend. To be honest, taking comfort food usually sends me into a tailspin. Oh, I like to do it. It’s just that it causes anxiety around the old home place when I do. Frankly, I’m just not a great cook. My heart is Betty Crocker, but my hands are a little more Sara Lee. On top of that, we’re just not big casserole folks around here. Neither the husband nor the girls like their food all mushed together in one dish. We’re people of simple tastes – meat on the grill, veggies in the steamer, and a baked potato in the oven. Unfortunately, that kind of a meal just doesn’t travel well. So when I need to bring a mobile meal, I go into recipe hunt overdrive. You know, it’s very difficult to be a moderate cook when you’re a type “A” overachiever who is her own worst critic. I’m always afraid that my home cooked love offering leaves the hapless victims running from table to Subway with a pit stop at the dumpster along the way. That causes me anxiety.

I’ve tried so many combinations of the meal on wheels that I’ve lost count. Usually, I team up with my sister, who likes to cook, and we do a meal together. It’s those times when I have to fly solo, however, that cause me comfort meal consternation. That’s what I’ve had to do this week.

Enter the orange theme. I’ve decided that one of the best things about having a theme for the year is that it gives me a focus for trying new recipes. I am constantly checking my websites (love, cookbooks, and magazines for interesting ways to use anything orange, either in color or flavor.

Well, eureka. I have found a really good meal to take to others… and it’s orange inspired.

The recipe that I took yesterday is for Orange Marmalade Chicken What I like about this meal is that it fulfills just about every qualification of a great meal upon the wheel.

*It’s easy; therefore even I can do it (check)

*It has very few ingredients (check), and…

*It has the type of ingredients which can be hoarded on the pantry shelf to be ready at a
    moment’s notice (double check)

*It combines both the meat and side dish in one entrée, thereby eliminating the need for
    yet another stressful decision. (check)

*It is pretty healthy and can be adapted to restricted diets (check)

*It can be taken uncooked since the bake time is less than 30 minutes (check)

*My finicky family of non mush meal eaters likes it (check)

Paired with these copper pennies (yes, more orange)

and a side salad, it’s a complete meal. OK, no dessert, but it’s a start. For my next thing, I’ll find a delicious orange inspired cake to go with it. Baby steps.

Now, if I can just get a better handle on the packaging and delivery thing…

Monday, January 18, 2010

I have a dream...

In honor of MLK Day, I have a dream. I have a dream that one day, this little grave looking plot of land will be flourishing vegetable garden.

I have a deep abiding love of fresh vegetables. I remember, during the terrible horrible very bad no good year, that the hardest sacrifice for me was eating vegetables out of a can. A store can. A store brand can, the kind that’s really half water/half pastel whatsit. It was horrible but necessary since the cost of fresh (and often frozen) produce was out of the budget. I was never so thrilled as when dear friends would share vegetables from their gardens.

Since then, I have wanted desperately to be able to bless it back with vegetables from my own. Additionally, I don’t ever want to be caught in a veggieless situation again. I have learned the lesson of the recession.

There are two major impediments to my dream. The first would be my brown thumb. I can’t even keep a houseplant alive without major intervention from the husband, who travels all week, or my green- thumbed daughter, who is away at school. Oh, I long to be a Mrs. Greenjeans. I envision myself one, standing in the middle of my own Eden, basket cradled on the arm, bringing in the sheaves….In my vision, I’m usually wearing a big pretty hat… but to call that vision a fantasy is a gross understatement. This Christmas, while meandering through a garden center, I found adorable little pots of fresh rosemary sculpted into Christmas tree shapes. Since I also love fresh herbs, I snatched one up and  took it home, where it perched proudly it atop of my refrigerator, multitasking as Christmas decoration and culinary device.

Here it is.

 Quite the gardener I am. I grow my dried herbs right on the vine.

The second problem is that our small back lawn is mostly a piney Georgia stick forest. There is simply no spot of land back there sufficient to sun even a moderate garden.

So our solution is square foot gardening. Years ago, before we moved to this house, we (that would be mostly “he”) had real success with square foot gardens, and we intend to try again. So the husband spent a rainy Saturday turning the earth in various spots along the edge of the driveway and near the piney woods. Then he purchased the lumber for the frames, and he cut the wood, and he crafted the little boundaries. Today, he will haul barn dirt from my sister’s farm.

So far, my contribution has been to snap a picture. For some odd reason, he likes it that way.

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Princess Diaries

Yesterday afternoon, Miss Whimsy and I headed out for one of my favorite adventures of the year, the annual prom dress expedition. Prom comes early here in south Georgia, and if you want to get “the” dress in time, you must begin looking in early January to allow plenty of time to order the right size and have any alterations made. So this over the top Prom Mom looks forward to January like a kid to Christmas. You see, I have an unashamed princess complex. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I enjoy more than a princess project. Those long, swishy dresses take me on a mental road trip to a gentler time and era. I love to watch the transformation from girl to princess. And when my own daughter is said princess, it’s like Christmas morning.

Because if my daughter is the princess, doesn’t that, by default, make ME the queen? Why yes, it does.

In our little town, MLK Day is Prom Dress Black Friday. Because Miss Whimsy and I do not do crowds well, we decided to venture into prom dress paradise early to avoid the mania.

So we went in…

And we set up our dressing room...

And we foraged through the racks upon racks of gowns to find ones to try. (Actually pretty easy when you bypass everything shagadellic, sexy, or sequined)  We know what we like: rich colors, crisp fabric, bandeau style, folds and ruching… a little sparkle doesn’t hurt.

Now, I have a strong desire to see my princess in a poofy dress…the type that makes her look as if she’s perched waist deep inside a cupcake. The girls know that it makes the Queen very happy if they will just try a cupcake dress or two. Last year, Miss Whimsy actually chose a modified cupcake…. I was over the moon.

So we tried on reject after reject…

And then, out she twinkled in the next- to- the- last dress, a very simple gown in a rich teal which looked beautiful with her skin and eyes. She hugged herself and said, “I just have to own this dress!” Now, a more practical mother would have stopped right there… paid for the dress… mission accomplished...but I knew that waiting on that rack was a perfectly lovely deep red cupcake, and I was determined to see it on her.

So she tried on the deep red cupcake. And it was just beautiful. To me.

We stood there staring at each other. We loved them both. The red was the more stunning dress, the teal the more stunning color. The red was a little too much like last year’s dress in style, the teal a little too much like it in color.

So she tried on the teal one again.

And then the red one again.

Then teal.

Then red.



Yes, I saw the looks that the clerk was shooting the owner. I also saw the price tags and decided to ignore those looks. In desperation, we called Macon, begging guidance from The Practical One and her cousin, my favorite professional princess. We tried to have them check the two dresses online, but they couldn’t find them.

We called Dad. Don't know what I thought that would accomplish.

Finally, I just said, “Let’s take the teal.” She scrinched her shoulders and hugged me. It was, after all, her princess dress and not mine.

So we paid for the dress, walked out, got in the car, and headed here:

And then, I looked at her and said, “Are you sure we shouldn’t have gotten the red one?”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

101 in 101

So here it is, in all its glory. After my week of shut down and inventory control, I made my list of things to simply deal with in the next 101 weeks. It was fairly easy to make a list. After my inventory adventure, I had pages and pages of ideas. What wasn’t so easy was editing the list to a mere 101 items. I could probably have listed 1,001 things in less time than it took to make the edit. But edit I did. Then, manic lister that I am, I felt the need to divide and conquer… to categorize and sublist… well, of course . I have divided my 101 items into 10 categories. (Because 10 is a nice, round number) Basically, my categories represent the reason that said item has been living a sad little shelf  life…unused, neglected, forgotten, or broken.

I’ll address the categories at a later time. For now, I’ll just commit the plan in its entirety to cyberspace. Based on my calculations on the day the list was complete, my Day Zero is

December 18, 2011.

When I realized that Day Zero fell just a week shy of Christmas, I admit to being sorely tempted to just put off starting until a more convenient date. But since that pesky little putting off is what got the items on the list to begin with, I will take a deep breath and stand firm.

I think

101 Things to either USE or repair, refinish,recycle, repurpose, retail, or retire in 101 Weeks

Because it will be beautiful once I…

1. Toy chest in den
2. Drop down desk in attic  Woohoo! Mabel got her groove back!
3. Side board in garage -currently working on it
4. Dining table at White Hill
5. China cabinet at White Hill
6. Side board at White Hill
7. Dining room chairs White Hill- waiting on seats
8. Old nightstand in attic
9. My green vanity table
10. Ottoman in attic
11. Iron/brass vanity stool
12. Cricket chair
13. Free Standing Oval Mirror finished after deadline...

Because I saved from the jaws of certain death…

14. Inserts/panes for windows
15. Huge,  plexus glass/skylight
16. Railing thingies
17. Old Storm door : I've OFFERED it to the newlyweds...
18.Old French Doors
19. Empty little orphan drawers from blue/green dresser
20. Windows in attic -  three down; one to go!!
21. Old paper napkins that I feel the need to save. Now that's just hoarding!
22. Old magazine “collection” (see above)
23. Box of old wallpaper
24. Primitive picture frame in upstairs closet
25. Mirror in upstairs closet
26. Old curtains (Just hopin' the 80s come back in style?)
27.The notorious shoe box   collection under the eaves. The valentine box days are long over, Debbie, really...
28. Old shutters with fabric inserts
29. Plaster sconces - two to go

Because I just had to have it… but I don’t use it like I should...
30. Iron plant rings 3 down so I'm counting it after deadline
31. Lawn lantern and post
32. Mailbox
33. Silver and glass coffee server
34. Tandem bicycle - moved to a different storage so I'm counting it
35. Bell collection
36. Butter spreader collection
37. White monogrammed tea towels
38. Blue Denby glasses
39. Kilke coffee pot
40. My sterling flatware
41. Those red plates that I just had to buy 
42. The green plaid mugs AND their matching plates
43. Shenandoah china
44. Moonspun crystal
45. Pasta maker
46. Electric vegetable steamer
47. Soup tureen- actually use it for soup
48. Teapot
49. Piece of carpet and padding in attic
50. My gift cardsworking on them so I'm counting this as complete
51. Silver tea service
52. Claudia stemware
53. White “ruffled” casserole dish
54. Skirt pattern… which will be out of style if I don’t make use of it!
55. Every decorative flag    
56. Engraved door knocker
57. Tiered cup and saucer stand
58. New door bell Can't figure out the doggone thing!
59. Porch lights

Because the minute I get rid of it… I just know I’ll need it
60. Extra TV
61. Filing cabinet in attic
62. Custom made desk organizer
63. My OLD crock pot
64. Teacher stuff (5 boxes… one full of border alone)
65. 2 fish bowls
66. Small TV with VCR (Not even DVD) attachment
67.Large brass planters (2)
68. Big gold basket under skirted table in living room
69. Random make-up, canvas, and computer bag collection
70..Fabric in attic and eaves - made a big dent!
71. My (old) sewing machine
72. Coolers: 3 large, 3 small, 3 thermos styled, 1 soft
73. Wall mounted television apparatus
74. Decorative baskets under the eave -
75. Box of unused picture frames

Because it might be worth something…
76. Roseville vases
77. Fire alarms
78. Rainbow vacuum
79. (Non sentimental) old books from attic
80. (Non sentimental) books from trunk in den
81. Old electronics in attic... making progress...

Because of an odd sentimental attachment to an inanimate object…
82. Umpteen old school projects and dioramas
83.The matching sister dresses - making progress... making progress...
84.Maternity clothes
85. Girls’ outgrown shoes
86. The Ballet Box -good grief, I tried! 
87. Bottles of wine from Germany
88. Beige Wool cape that I wore when I was expecting…22 years ago
89. My set of world book encyclopedias
90. The needlepoint tablecloths made by my grandmother

Because I paid good money for that…
91. 35mm camera

Because it doesn't belong to me anyway…
92. Box of borrowed books
93. The Hummel plate gift for my sister from Germany
94. The baby gifts that I keep forgetting to deliver. 

Because I don’t abide by the one in/one out rule…
* Here, I will commit to wear/use all of the following at least once in 101 days or OUT they go. I know, well, of course .
95. Every nightgown  (... and this would include those which are a quarter of a century old...)
96. Every piece of jewelry from my jewelry box
97. Every cookbook on my shelf
98. Every Christmas ornament/decoration. All. Every single one.(see #95)
99. Every pillow/cover for front porch -
100. Every decorative wreath for my front door-

And finally in a class all its own... Just because...
101. The playhouse.   No, I will not play in it, although the thought is tempting. I will repurpose it for a better use than its current role as Catchall Cottage.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Half Empty

My cup is half empty this morning, and I’m giving myself permission to say so.

And it’s this cup….

This is the one that The Practical Daughter uses for her morning coffee. It’s from my set of everyday ware, and it is the only cup that she likes to use. The Practical One likes order. Drinking her coffee out of a quirky mug which has no place in the pattern of things?

Not her style.

And that’s why my cup’s half empty. The Practical One left yesterday to head back to school. When she leaves, my life is not balanced. And I'm a little blue.

If my daughters were caricaturized as Disney’s dwarfs, one would be Doc, and the other would be Happy. Now, that’s not to say that Doc is Grumpy and Happy is Dopey. Not in the least. It’s just that the sum total of their personality quirks names them thus. One is practical; the other is whimsical. And when they are both home, my life is a perfectly lovely balance of practical whimsy. And I love it. If I could box that combination and sell it, I’d be a millionaire.

When they were very little, about ages 6 and 3,
they decided to give me a little dance recital.

 The Practical One performed first,
 waltzing into the living room with precious grace
 to the strains of Lamb of God
and performing a little homemade ballet so well crafted
 I’m almost positive that somewhere.
 up in her room,
was a slip of paper with phonetically spelled out choreographic directions…
complete with dance positions a la Française.

And then the music changed.

In bounced Miss Whimsy, shaking her groove thing for all it was worth to the drum beat of some contemporary Christian rock...just making it up as she went along.

The Practical One and I laughed until I cried.
Perfect balance.

When each daughter turned 13, we went on an overnight adventure in Savannah. They were in charge of the plan as I tried to make memories in Mother/Daughter Land. The Practical One and I spent the day browsing stores like Pier One… just as she had planned…making mental lists of how we would like to decorate the dream rooms and dream homes in our minds. You see, The Practical One dreams too. She just does so in an orderly fashion... with lists... usually color coded.

 Miss Whimsy and I, on the other hand, had no particular plan. We just hit every coffee shop in the area, sipping venti after venti, until, by the time we came home, we were Mother/Daughter on speed. We tried to pierce her ears… They ended up lopsided and had to be redone. Perhaps grande would have been the better choice.

Miss Whimsy and I like to switch things up by taking back roads and byways. When she was little, we called them “adventure roads”. These days, they are generally referred to as “Mom took a wrong turn again”. No matter. Miss Whimsy and I know that eventually, we’ll get where we’re going.  A little meandering now and then doesn’t change the destination,  just the scenery.

But without The Practical One to tell me exactly where it was that I took that left turn, we waste a little more time than necessary trying to get back on course.

And that’s why I lack balance.
And why my cup is half empty.

I like it just fine that my girls are so different. I love each one just the way God made her and delight in the differences. I wouldn’t change a thing about them. Well, maybe that one unpleasant habit that they do share, that of growing up entirely too quickly.

And just in case you’re wondering how Miss Whimsy drinks her morning (noon and night) coffee, here it is:

Happy is just a little tiny bit Grumpy until her first cup of coffee...

Friday, January 8, 2010

101 Things...

So there we sat, knee deep in  Project Paradise  ...

As the practical one  and I sorted the attic plunder, we laughed at the number and nature of things that I have felt, for some oddball reason, to save. One of the worst things about being an innie is that you often have no clue what you have. Had I known what I had, for example, I might be able to explain why I had saved the bright blue, fish covered, paper decorations from  a VBS which took place the year my now senior was in the 2nd grade. Seriously.

And what we discovered was this:  I don’t have an organization problem or a storage problem; I have an inventory control problem.

And I thought....Back in the old days when high school and college kids were still hired by companies for summer jobs, my brother worked for a local business. Every July, when the plant had its "shut down", my brother would tackle the task of inventory, crawling into their creepy old warehouses and detailing every item crowding the crevices.

So I declared this first week of January to be Shut Down. YepI embarked on my own creepy crevice mission of inventory control.  Cue the Jaws music...

I crawled into the attics, I roamed about the house, I opened the closet doors, I pulled back the curtains, and I peeled the lids off of the boxes …

…and I listed. I listed everything I spied that had been banished to a lonely back corner, waiting to be used, repaired, rejuvenated, repurposed, recycled, resold, returned, retired… I called it my “deal with it” inventory. These are things that will commit to deal with, one item at a time… first things first and next things next. 

Things like this...

And this...

And these... Maternity clothes, Debbie?  Really?

And this...

Why did I keep this?

It was a challenge to resist the sentimental side trip down memory lane. I avoided those boxes and trunks completely. It was a challenge to resist the urge to drag wannabe treasures, once discovered, downstairs to the garage and dive into some re-purposing project for which I have neither plan nor materials. That’s the kind of thing that I tend to do. And frankly, it was a challenge to resist the urge to just pull it ALL out, front and center a la outie, and begin a massive Project Purge. I’ve done that. And frankly, it hasn’t worked for me.

It hasn’t worked for me because tossing items which obviously need to be tossed or recycled is not my problem. I can deal with the flat-liners. It’s the stuff with a heartbeat that I can’t shake off. That stuff sticks as if super glued to my hands in a project purge. It also hasn’t worked for me because the job is just too big and I am not, as I’ve said, a long term look kind of gal.

So I decided to make the list, and then practice the art of the edit by culling the list down to a limited number of items and giving myself permission to leave things off the list.

Inspired by Jennie at one of my favorite blogs, Though there be madness, yet there is method in it , I have created my own list for the Day Zero project.

101 things to either use, repair, repurpose, give away, sell, or toss

Unlike Jennie, I can’t handle the long term 1,001 days that she set for her list completion. Frankly, three years is just too much of a long term goal for me....

I thought about 101 days, but that’s just too much of a short term goal for me. After all, I have some projects on my “deal with it” list which will take time and money, like a dining room set that waits refinishing…

So, after careful consideration, I chose to set my goal for 101 weeks. That gives me roughly two years. Not too long. Not too short. Just right.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Project Paradise

So here I am with this determination to take one step at a time, to Do The Next Thing  in this upcoming year, and I’m left in a bit of a quandary. What, exactly, is the “next” thing? I mean, how can I do the next thing if I haven’t even determined the first thing yet? I’m pretty sure if I don’t have a plan, this do the next thing mission will morph into just another variation of do that same old thing, which looks a whole lot like plain old ordinary housewifery. Not exactly the mission.

The husband, quite by accident, provided me with the plan. Right before the new year, we replaced the upstairs heat pump. Early in the morning on installation day, I heard the telltale creak of the hinges on the attic stairs as Mr. Prep Work himself prepared the way for the workmen. And I cringed…

I cringed because the man and I are an organizational mismatch. He is an outie, and I’m an innie. He likes his stuff plopped front and center. I like my stuff secured behind a door, curtain, or screen. I’m even happier if said stuff is stuffed in a box behind that door, curtain, or screen…An attic, therefore, is Innie Paradise.

And I have two of them. Plus accessible storage under my eaves… plus a garage… plus a used- to- be playhouse turned hideaway in the backyard…

You would think, with all of that storage, the man would not have had to clear a path to the AC unit in the attic. But he did, and when he said, “Deb- or- ah” with three syllables, I knew what it meant. It meant, “Deb-or-ah, I have pulled some of your schtuff  front and center and I am not going to reload it into Innie Paradise until you sort it out.”

   I now had my “first thing”. Honestly, I would have been very content to leave my stuff sequestered behind that attic door… maybe stuffed in better boxes. It wasn’t affecting my day to day life. But I grudgingly started, with the help of the practical daughter, to evaluate the plunder. And what we discovered got my wheels turning.


I have a plan…

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Silent Spaces

When I was a teacher, I somehow felt that my lesson plan book needed to be a work of art. I diligently planned for each hour of the day in its appropriate little block. I liked to lean back in my seat and gaze with self satisfaction at the page of blocks, all neatly organized and tidy. For some oddball reason, though, it would bother me to no end to have an empty square staring back at me corresponding to those blocks when my class was secured away in enrichment classes. It just seemed to scream, “Shirker! Shirker!” Simply scrawling the words “music” or “PE” did not suffice. So I found myself actually decorating those little offending blocks in a lame attempt to assuage those oddball sensibilities. I would doodle a little G clef, or a little music staff, or little quarter notes all around the notation that the kids were in music….or sketch a little baseball or soccer ball ~ complete, of course, with corresponding dashes of motion to show it shwooosing and loopity- looping around the words “physical education”. (Because “PE” would take up far too little space in my planning block…) It’s funny now, when I think about it, but really… what a colossal waste of my time. Oh sure, it made me feel good, but was it really necessary to fill every space?

It’s really so much like me… I still feel the need to decorate the moment with superfluous verbal doodling rather than allow it to sit, filled with conspicuous silence.

Just this morning, staring at this blog, I felt that old familiar feeling. I know that if I’m not careful, I’ll decorate the empty spaces with electronic loopity loops and quarter notes so that I don’t look, in my oddball brain, like some kind of a blog shirker.

And the purpose of this whole experiment is to teach the left side of my brain that sometimes, less is more… and that I don’t HAVE to fill those silent spaces with my verbal meanderings. Considering the fact that I just fired off 364 words to fill an empty silence, I think I need to tweak the plan.  I will consider it a baby step that I didn’t take a picture to decorate this post…

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Do the Next Thing

Last week, my Sunday School class studied spiritual resolve. What a blessing to be reminded that our walk  is just that, a walk, taken one single step at a time with our faces resolutely set toward Jerusalem. Why I feel the need to make MY walk a gallop or sprint at times is beyond me. But then, I have always been the kind who wanted to high jump to the finish line and avoid all those pesky in- betweens.

If I'm like that in my spiritual life, I'm like that times 10 in day to day life management.  When I stop and make a serious evaluation of everything that needs to be tweaked, fixed, changed, organized, cleaned, or deleted in my life, it's just too overwhelming. ~Let's face it: I'm just not a long term look kind of gal.~  So, far too often, I fire off a list of the to dos then crumble in a  heap of the I can'ts. How ridiculous. This year, I simply resolve to walk, one single step at a time. And when the walk seems too overwhelming, I simply resolve to crawl. After all, an inch forward is still forward.  In talking to my friend Helen, who always, always  has the word upon the wheel, she mentioned Elisabeth Elliot's  philosophy of "Do the Next Thing".  The corresponding poem which inspired Elliot is beautiful and practical.

At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, 'Do the next thing.'

Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, Let this be thy psalm.
Do the next thing."

Yes, I know.... Well, of course!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Rhymes With Orange

I guess it's because of my years in the classroom, but I find that, for me, deciding some sort of theme at the beginning of anything gives me direction, creativity, and organization. If you pick a theme, the abstracts become so much more concrete. Decisions are so much easier to make. Life, in general, is just a little more fun.  So, I've decided on a theme color for 2010. The theme color  is.... orange.

I love the color orange.  I love every hue of it, from peach to melon to tangerine to (my personal favorite) terra cotta. Orange is a happy color. It's a step out of the box color. Not everyone likes orange. Not everyone can wear orange. It's sort of the oddball of the color wheel. It makes pefrect sense that I would like it. I'm sort of the oddball in the color wheel of life.

So orange is my theme color for 2010.  To  start the year, I made a Happy New Year basket of goodies for my mom. Nothing fancy, just some orangey stuff all stuck together with orangey decorations.

I bought some oranges, orange juice, and orange marmalade. Mom loves  peanut butter and marmalade sandwiches on raison bread. I made a tangelo pomander and wrapped it in yellow netting to match Mom's yellow kichen. I tied it with a little orange, of course. It bursts with the fragrance of citrus mixed with clove. I love that smell.  I really need to make one for my own kitchen next.

I tried a new recipe for Cream Cheese Orange Bread. Absolutely yummy. It's a keeper.  All in all, a simple but fun way to start the new year.  I think this theme color thing could be really fun.


Note to self: ORANGE does not photograph so well. 
Oh well, neither do I.


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