Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 11: Master Closet, Finale

In yesterday's post, I told you I'd be turning my hangars.  I've done this several times in the past, as it works quite well.  The idea is actually quite basic.  Once you've done a preliminary purge, go through the entire closet, and turn all the hangers backward (i.e., hook them over the rod from back to front instead of from front to back).  As you wear things and return them to the closet (after washing, of course), hang them with the hangers facing normally.  After a set period of time, you'll be able to see without question what you actually wear and what you don't.  Pretty cool, huh? (=

Day 10: Master Bedroom Closet, Reprised

Phase 1 of the Master Bedroom Closet Cleanout has been completed.

I have everything organized by color, starting with ROY-G-BIV, then pink, white, off-white/brown, black, and gray.  Within each color grouping, the shirts are organized by sleeve length.

I used to have them all by sleeve length separately.  So there were long-sleeved shirts all sorted by color and then short-sleeved shirts all sorted by color and then sleeveless shirts and tanks all sorted by color.  I found that it was taking me a really long time to pick out something to wear when I was going from, say, long-sleeved red shirts to short-sleeved red shirts to sleeveless red shirts.  Now, all the red shirts are in one spot.  It's only been a couple days, but it seems to be working better.

Next, I'll be turning all the hangers backward.  (Hint: That's tomorrow's post.)

Day 9: Christmas Concert

If you were expecting a chore assignment every day for 31 days, I'm sorry, but I'm going to disappoint you.  I, personally, cannot drive myself that way.  If I try, I burn out early and fall back into my old ways.  Knowing that about myself, I am purposely having days within this challenge where I do other things that are important for maintaining harmony in my home.  This is going to be one of those posts.

While I am scheduled for an exorbitant amount of overtime at work, I purposely slated an early out for Sunday.  Having been a band mom for the past 10 years (they start performing in 6th grade), I put in my vacation request far enough in advance to guarantee that I would be able to attend.  I'm so glad I did. (=

My son is a junior (11th grader) in high school this year.  Marching band has ended for the year, and the annual Christmas concert is the band's first performance of the year that is concert, rather than marching, style.  This year, in addition to being a member of the concert band, my son is also in jazz band and the drum line.  So, I was able to see (and hear) him performing through quite a bit of the show.

When the show was over, we attended an informational meeting for Winter Drumline.  Then, we went home and ordered subs for dinner from the local pizza place.

Isn't he handsome? (=

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I have been under the weather, and while I've still been muddling through in the house, I haven't been as faithful on blogging my activities.  I'll be posting Days 9-11 shortly.  Thank you all for understanding.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Day 8: The Tree

Part of having a harmonious home is celebrating the things that are important. Sometimes that means taking a day off from the cleaning and organizing so that you can enjoy time with family. To that end, we've hung our Christmas tree and gotten it decorated, and we'll be indulging in a couple Christmas movies once the delivery person shows up with dinner. (=

Friday, December 7, 2012

Day 7: Fantasy Closets

As I go through the drudgery that it sorting through all the different sorts of clothing that have found their way into my closet in the past 10 years, I thought you all might enjoy seeing some enviable closets ... although I think I'll be truly happy with my teeny closet once I have it fully cleaned out.

I almost had to wipe drool from my keyboard while I was scrolling through the closets here.

This link has several celebrity closets for you to peruse.

Then I found this one, which is on a much smaller scale (but still bigger than mine), but also much more realistic.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 6: Master Bedroom Closet

I started cleaning out my closet today, but I struggled with the idea of actually getting rid of things.  The “what ifs” reared their ugly heads, and so everything got piled instead of being purged. But I'm happy to say that I pushed past it.  I ended up bagging up lots of stuff to give away.  The job's not done yet, but I got a good start on it.  I really wanted to get it done today, but I'm so tired!  Have I mentioned that I won't have a day off until the 19th because of all the overtime I'm doing?

I'm going to bed!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 5: Master Bathroom Linen Closet, Part 2

Welcome back!

Today I put everything away.  When I say everything, I mean everything that's actually going back in the closet.  I did some more sorting and wiped stuff down.  {It's crazy how dusty stuff gets in a closet!)

So yesterday we got the shelves all cleaned off.  Today, we have this:

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 4: Master Bathroom Linen Closet, Part 1

As cluttered as my under-the-sink cabinets appeared, they were really just disorganized.  My linen closet is a combo deal.

Initially, I was sharing this closet, but now that I'm the only one using it, it really shouldn't have as much Stuff in it as it does.  I don't use half of it on anything close to a regular basis.  So, it's time to purge.  First step?  Start with a clean slate.  That's right … time to pull everything off the shelves.

Again, I've sorted like items together to get a feel for how much I have in each category.  I also tossed some of it and set some aside to donate.

I was shocked at how long it took just to get everything out of the closet!  I thought I would get the whole closet redone in a single session, but as it turns out, this is a two-day project.  Come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion! (;

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 3: Master Bathroom Cabinet

I got a late start on today's project, because I worked 2 hours of overtime after my shift today.  But I'm not letting that stop me!  Today, we tackle the cabinets under the master bathroom sink.  Here's what mine looked like before I started:

Not exactly a pinnacle of organizational wonderment, right?  I'm not exactly in love with that paper, which is why I pulled it off the main walls in here and painted a couple years ago.  The green's not exactly something I'm loving right now either, but all I have to do is peek in the cabinets to remind myself that there are worse things than green walls. (;

So, what's my first step?  Pull everything out and clean the insides of the cabinets.  Now, when I pulled everything out of the cabinets, I sorted it according to what it was to give me an idea of what I've been storing under there.  As you can probably see in the before photo, there are quite a few bottles of lotion, body wash, and shampoo, several cans of mousse, and even some vitamins.

When I go to get things like these and find them on sale, I tend to stock up.  I also accidentally bought lots of lotion at Sam's Club once when I thought I was getting body wash.  So, we won't be buying lotion again for a really long time.

I know.  I know.  Some of you are saying to yourselves, "Why aren't you getting rid of that stuff?"  The answer to that is simple.  I'm cheap.  If I wasn't certain it would be put to use, it would be gone.  However,  I know we'll use it, and I've already handed over my hard-earned dollars and cents to get the ones we have.  Why put myself in a situation to have to buy more later?  Now that I know what I have and in what quantities, I know not to buy this stuff for the foreseeable future.  When we get down to the last bottles, I can add them back to the shopping list again, but until then, I can shop my own shelves.

And my after photo for today's task:

Alright, so it probably won't stay like this.  Let's face it; I'm not likely to leave it mostly empty.  I may even move my stash back in, but I plan to sort it first.  I'm also not sure whether I'll leave my nail stuff in there.  We'll see what happens once I tackle the linen closet.

So, are you following along and working these same tasks with me, or are you going your own way?  Let me know below! (=

Day 2 Revisited

I realized something this morning.  I never posted any before/after photos yesterday!  I also never shared any of the steps in my process.  Man, I knew I was tired, but I guess I had no idea how tired I was!  So, before I post about today's leg of the journey, here's some stuff from yesterday …

This is my bathroom counter.  It was just a little on the cluttered side, because Stuff likes to follow me around and settle in wherever there's space.

I'm playing with the idea of putting the hair dryer elsewhere, as I don't use it daily anymore.  Maybe I can mount the hanger on the inside of one of the cabinet drawers?  I may move the plastic drawers, too.  They're very useful for corralling my routinely used items and keeping them separated by category, but they're not exactly lovely.  Still, isn't this better?

I received this jewelry box from the girls for Mother's Day the year my son was born … 16 years ago.  I've always loved it, but it's a little dated.  I started keeping it in the window ledge to deter the kitties from jumping up there.  It's bad enough they try to jump in my lap when I'm in here. (;  The basket of nail polish and nail care items is resting on its perch for the same reason.

I like this much more, though I think it's a little too bare now ... I'll have to give some thought to what I might do to change that.

Because the drainpipe in the kids' shower leaks into the basement, I share my shower with them.  That means a lot more bottles of goo reside in my bathroom than would otherwise.  The worse part is that it means there's more places for dust to land and stick to the still wet surfaces.

I took all the bottles out and gave the shower a good old-fashioned cleaning using a tip I found online.  Then I put in only those bottles and other items that are used on a regular basis.  FYI, the cleaner I used worked great (note the color difference under the hand bar), but I didn't follow the instructions to the letter.   You're supposed to leave it on overnight.  I left it on for a few minutes and then still used a scrub brush.  It may work great as directed, but I was being impatient and just wanted results.

Now all that's left is the hamper in the corner that currently houses my bath towels.  I think that may find a new home once I get the linen closet cleaned out and reorganized.

So, that's what I did yesterday. (=

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 2: The Master Bathroom

My house did not get where it is today due solely to my issues.  I live with others after all.  But it would be wholly unfair of me to point fingers and start assessing blame ... I live here, too, right?  So, my first day of cleaning and organizing is about me.  Only right to pull the plank from my own eye before I start picking at the splinter in someone else's.

Today I'm starting with my master bathroom (in case you didn't read the post title).  I'm planning for this to take 2-3 days, not because it's an especially large room (it's not) but because (A) I'm going to be doing the work after returning home from an 8-hour shift (plus overtime) at the job that's paying my bills, and (B) the last time I cleaned my bathroom, I never laid a finger on what's lurking in the under-the-sink cabinets or the linen closet.  So, today's post will be "part one."

Having mentioned the portions of the room that have been previously ignored, I may have given the impression that I might start there this time around. If that is the case, I apologize. I find it easier to spend extended periods of time in a room only if there is already some semblance of order. With that in mind, today I focused on what can be seen: cleaning the counter, sink, shower, toilet, mirror, and floor. Other than the floor, the sink is always my last item, because it gives me access to clean water for use in cleaning the rest of the room. I always feel like cleaning the sink earlier in my list would make more work for me, because I'd just end up messing it up while working on the rest.  For that same reason, I clean the mirror before I clean the counter ... Otherwise I would have to clean window cleaner off the already-cleaned counter.

So, not a giant leap forward, but the clutter is cleaned up, and everything has been scrubbed and wiped down. Tomorrow, I'll tackle the under-the-sink cabinets. If that goes quickly, I'll get a jump on the linen closet ... Until then, why not choose a small project of your own to complete?  Feel free to share your accomplishments in the comments. (=

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 1: Why?

I have no idea when it was that I first began my torrid love affair with Stuff.  I honestly cannot recall.  All I know is that, whenever I have felt lonely or insignificant or even just a little bit sad, Stuff has been there to make me feel better.  Stuff's been there to help me celebrate the good times, too.  The problem with our relationship is that it's inherently unhealthy.  The whole time, it's just been an illusion.  Stuff doesn't love or need me in any way.  In fact, Stuff has actually been slowly suffocating me, turning the joy we once shared into sometimes overwhelming depression.  And the worse part about it is that Stuff doesn't even care.

I'm tired of feeling claustrophobic in my own home, and I'm tired of fearing the possibility of  unexpected visitors, because Stuff is always lazing about, flopping wherever might be most comfortable.  Stuff is the elephant in the room that I've avoided discussing for far too long.  So, I've decided it's time to end our relationship and kick Stuff to the curb.

In all seriousness, my OCD can sometimes be debilitating.  Instead of turning me into some super-powered, psycho clean freak, it overwhelms me with all the minute details involved in decluttering my home.  Rather than seeing a small task to be done, I see all the smaller tasks that are involved in that task ALL AT ONCE and how those tasks relate to ALL THE OTHER tasks that are as of yet unfinished in my home, until just considering starting something becomes all too bewildering.  Then I end up curled up with a book, or the TV, or the computer with my invisible blinders on trying to ignore all the chaos that pushed me to near-hyperventilation in the first place.

So, what's different this time?  In the past, I've always looked specifically at what needs to be done in my home and have always come up with a mile-long list that's more than I can bear.  Recently, however, I was surfing the web (possibly while avoiding housework), and I came across 31 days to an organized home, which led me to other sites with similar goals.  All of these sites had one thing in common, they'd broken down the elephant that was their major cleaning and organizing project into bite-sized tasks, something I had been unable to do myself.  So, I used their lists to get me started, to give me a recipe for my elephant, if you will.  Then I just tweaked the ingredients to suit my tastes.  When I'd finished tweaking, I had my very own recipe for elephant, unique to my needs.  Apparently, that small shift in perspective, taking someone else's bite-by-bite plan and working it to fit my task instead of trying to take my task and figure out how to make it bite-sized, was all I needed to put together a workable plan without needing to reach for a paper bag for breathing.  Who knew?

So, if you've had difficulty taking that first step, because you see a whole elephant when you should just be dealing with the toe, I hope this 31-day challenge can help you ... just as others' journeys have helped me.  Bon appetit!

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gratitude, Day 25

Thank you, Lord, for days like today when I have customers that restore my faith in humanity.  Customers who understand that I'm there to help them and that I will do everything I can to make things work properly for them.  Customers who appreciate that I'm not the queen of the company and that there are rules to which I must adhere.  Customers who are so pleased to have someone actively listen to them and then take action to improve their situations that they want to take action themselves.  (One of my customers wants to send me a Christmas card.)

Most days it's very easy to lose sight of why I do what I do ... when people are cursing me and cussing me and threatening me and yelling directly into my ear (or flushing their toilets in it) ... when people immediately ask to speak to my supervisor without ever giving me an opportunity to assist them (though 98% of the time, I could have taken care of the issue in less time).  Days like today help to bring balance to the chaos that is customer service.

If I may take advantage of the fact that you're still reading this ... When you call in to customer service, whatever company you may be calling, the person to whom you speak is not the one who makes policy decisions.  That person likely doesn't make nearly as much money as the person who does make the policy decisions.  That person, in fact, is your biggest ally in your quest to get something done.  He or she would much prefer to assist you and know they've made a difference for someone than to end up in a contest of wills.  They know you've had to go through an automated menu you don't like.  They know you wouldn't be calling if there wasn't something you wanted to change.  The easiest way for you both to make it through the phone call without anyone being hurt/angered/annoyed is to go into the call with the assumption that the person who answers your call will assist you.  Save being upset for those (hopefully) rare occasions when that doesn't happen.  Don't punish someone for simply answering your call.  You don't want to be that caller any more than the person answering wants you to think of them as that customer service person.

Off my soapbox now. (;

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gratitude, Day 24

Today, I am truly grateful to have older children.  We ran out of gas on the way home tonight.  The little light never came on ... not even after the gas was gone.  My son pushed the car while I steered and while we waited for my daughter to arrive with a gas can.  Could have been a much different tale if the children were still younger, especially since not one motorist stopped to see if I needed assistance ... not that I blame them in this day and age.  Crisis averted, and I now know that the gas light doesn't work and that I need to gas up before it gets iffy. (;

Friday, November 23, 2012

Gratitude, Day 23

I spent today chilling out at home ... the first time I haven't gone Black Friday shopping in years.  In fact, I never even changed out of my jammies.  Gasp!  It was a glorious day! (=

I'm thankful today for online bill payment.  No stamps, no running to the mailbox, no hassle.  Got the bills all taken care of and went back to playing Farkle with the kids.

Yesterday, when it was time to put the turkey in, my son requested that we wait to have it today, because he was still stuffed from our larger-than-life breakfast.  So, we had turkey and mashed taters and gravy tonight.

Tomorrow, it's back to the grind.  I'll be heading back to work after three marvelous days of being home with my children and our pets.  It's been peaceful.  And it was a much needed respite from the norm.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude, Day 22

Today, I am thankful for the opportunity to enjoy time with my family.  We started off with a yummy breakfast.  I was up at 8:30 this morning (sleeping in for me) and lined a jelly roll pan with foil,

laid out what was left of the bacon (after making a pound and a half to use in my breakfast burritos),

and placed it in the cold oven.  Then I set the oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit

and set the timer for 20 minutes.

Once that was set, I pulled out my largest pan.  Remember the sausage I made in the microwave Stack Cooker the other day for my burritos?  Well, I saved the grease to use today.  I heated it in the pan to use as the base for my homemade sausage gravy.

While the grease was heating, I mixed flour into hot tap water with my wire whisk. 

This is a trick i learned a few years ago for making the gravy smooth.  Always mix the flour into liquid before adding it to the pan.  It's been working for me. (=  The only lumps in my gravy this morning were the bits of sausage (that extra pound I cooked the other day).  I added the sausage (and a bit of pepper) once the base was at the consistency that we like.

About the time I finished up the sausage gravy, the oven timer started dinging.  So I pulled out the bacon and set it on trivets to cool.  Once I could touch it, I layered it on paper towels to drain away the grease.  Doesn't that look yummy!  And not a single grease pop on me!

One of the best parts of making the bacon this way is that cleanup was simply folding the tin foil in on itself and moving it to the trash can.  Viola!  Clean jelly roll pan!  Once I'd taken care of that, I bumped the oven temperature up to 400 and moved out of the way, so my daughter could make biscuits.  Our recipe for drop biscuits requires using baking mix, but she said we were out.  So she looked online and found a recipe for baking mix using flour, sugar, salt, baking power, and butter.

Once that was made, it was on to biscuits!  Here's our recipe:
  • 2 cups baking mix
  • 2/3 cup milk
Combine baking mix and milk.  Drop onto baking stone.  Bake at 400-degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 minutes.

When they're done, they should look something like this:

We don't go all out with the rolling and cutting, mostly because they taste just as wonderful without all the extra work.  Besides which, making them this way was a really easy way to allow the kids to help in the kitchen when they were little.  We just never changed it when they got older. (;

Oh, and when I went to put the flour away, look what I found in the pantry:

If you guessed "a huge canister of baking mix," you were right!  That's okay, though.  It'll be used.  We'll just need to use the homemade stuff first, since it was made with butter.

Like my high-tech labeling?  And on vintage Tupperware no less. (;

While the biscuits were baking, I made grits, to which we added cheddar and Parmesan cheese and all the bacon.  Then I made over-easy eggs for each of us.  It was a very filling, homey, southern-style breakfast.  Though I admit I never had biscuits and gravy and eggs and grits with bacon at the same breakfast when I was growing up ... But when the kids are more interested in Thanksgiving breakfast than they are in Thanksgiving dinner, I'm more than willing to make it happen.

And after that meal, the other thing I'm thankful for today ... Naps! (;

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, fun, and time to reflect on all those things in your life for which you have reason to be thankful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude, Day 21

Had a lovely day today that was packed with comfort foods.  Soooo thankful for comfort foods!  For brunch, we had eggs, over easy, with cheesy grits.  For dinner, it was broccoli cheddar soup.  Mmmm ...

Tomorrow, being Thanksgiving, is traditionally a day of digestive overindulgence, but today proved that any old day can be a make-you-feel-good food day. (=

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gratitude, Day 20

Today, I want to give a shout-out to all the friends I've made along the way.  You know who you are.  You've dragged me out for girl time when I was blinded to the fact that I needed it.  You've hugged me when I was down, made me laugh when I didn't think I could, called me unspeakable names in public places just to make me smile, and reassured me when I've felt woefully incapable of bearing the cross that has been handed to me.

I am thankful for each and every one of you, all the time.  You have no idea how much you all mean to me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gratitude, Day 19

I am thankful for YouTube ... I spent a very relaxing evening doing a whole lot of nothing while watching a variety of programming, starting with the 2012 People's Choice Awards and bouncing to the 2012 Tony Awards and then a few NPH videos which led to a whole slew of "Big Bang Theory" clips.  Lots of laughs to be had on the internet, and I certainly needed them.  Good stuff.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gratitude, Day 18

I am thankful for my Tupperware Stack Cooker.  I did all the prep work to make frozen breakfast burritos tonight.  I cooked my bacon in the oven, following a method I found online.  While it was cooking, I broke up a pound of sausage into the colander of my Stack Cooker (with the cone in the center).  With the colander in the larger piece of the Stack Cooker, I put on the lid and microwaved it for 2 minutes.  Then, I broke up the sausage a bit and cooked it for 2 more minutes.  Done!  No muss, no fuss!  And the grease dripped down through the colander into the larger casserole dish, which meant no draining to do.  When it had cooled a little, I put the sausage into my chopper and gave it a few spins to make it easier to distribute when it's time to add it to the burritos.

My burritos are a little different from the recipe on the site above.  I didn't use the hash browns for starters.  Instead of spinach, I chopped half a vidalia onion and a whole red bell pepper (after removing the stem, ribs, and seeds).  And obviously, I've added sausage to the mix.  I'll let you know how they are. (=

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gratitude, Day 17

Today, it was my extreme pleasure to watch as my son marched in a Santa Claus parade.  It was televised, so after watching him perform live, I was able to watch from a different perspective when we got home.  It was a long day, but a fabulous one.  And I am so incredibly grateful that I had benefit time available so that I could be there.

December's Challenge

While I think buying less is a great way to put the focus back on what the holidays are really about, I don't think it's enough.  So, I'll also be cutting back on the stuff we've already accumulated.  There really aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things I get an inkling to do, but over the years, I've still purchased supplies as if there were.  Now, I have tons of things that are taking up valuable real estate in my home, and do you know what?  They're not bringing me joy.  In fact, with so much stuff, it actually drags me down.

Visual clutter, even if it's well-ordered, bothers me.  It's somewhat debilitating.  I get overwhelmed just seeing it all, and my well-laid plans to do something about it falter, causing me to withdraw into a tiny bubble where I stare only at the pages of a book, a computer screen, or a television, effectively throwing on blinders to avoid that which plagues me.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not living inside an episode of Hoarders or anything quite so astounding as that, but there's no way anyone would ever mistake me for a minimalist either.

I mentioned a while back that I have been reading "The Year of Less" and have even shared some of what I've done as a result (Sermon on the Mount Month, for one).  Sadly, she'll be ceasing production on that blog, but she'll still post updates on her other blog (her main one), "The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking."  And on that blog, back in October of last year, she did a 31-Day Challenge:

So, just a heads up ... Inspired by the posts from 2011, I will be embarking on my own organizational journey starting on the first of December.  In preparation, I think I'll take a few before photos and get them prepped for the web, so I'll only have the after shots to deal with when its time for posting.  Now, I'm not relishing the thought of sharing my before photos with you.  I don't even want people who love me to see some of this stuff.  But if my posts in December can help even one person to overcome the depression that comes from wanting to live better but feeling almost paralyzed when it comes to figuring out what to do about it, then it's worth it.  Because that's how I feel almost every day, and I don't want to feel that way anymore.  I also know from experience how freeing it feels to have even that first small space handled.

Before the new year begins ... I want a home I can feel happy to call mine.  I want to ring in 2013 with a new resolution, to maintain my home, not to clean it.  Who wants to join me as I begin my journey toward an organized home? 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gratitude, Day 16

Today, I am grateful for the sarcastic silliness of a select few of my coworkers.  If you're reading this, you know who you are. (;

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gratitude, Day 15

With my work schedule, I'm usually up no later than 5 o'clock each morning.  Then I end up staying up until after 10 each night.  Today, I slept until almost 11!  It was amazing!  I felt fabulous all day.  So today, I'm grateful for the restorative properties of a good night's sleep. (=

My Pre-Black Friday Sale Post

For the past few years, I have spent Black Friday shopping with my daughter.  This year, the purse strings are tighter than they've been in about a decade.  And, as I mentioned previously, I really am tired of Christmas being all about things.  It shouldn't be.  What it should be about is remembering why we have Christmas in the first place and spending time with our loved ones and appreciating the time we have with them.

This year for Black Friday, I am going to do something different.  My daughter is already not going to go shopping (not because she doesn't want to, but because she was unable to get time off from work).  So, this year, I'm spending Black Friday with my son.  I think we'll do some of the same things my daughter and I have done in years past: get up ridiculously early, bundle up, go out into the throngs.  But I think we'll skip the crazy shopping lines filled with little old ladies who'll club you over the head when you reach to grab the last $2 waffle iron.  I think we'll still do breakfast (bagels and hot chocolate at Panera, maybe?) and even the time-honored traditional lunch at Olga's Kitchen.  We may even buy something stocking stuffer-ish (new toothbrushes and the like).  But no pouring over the ads, making a list of stuff that we don't really need.  Instead, we'll spend time making memories and perhaps start a new tradition that includes talking more and spending less.

When we come home, I think we'll sit down and plan out how we'll celebrate the rest of the holiday season.  There are plenty of fun activities if you take the time to look for them.  Maybe we'll start by checking our local listings for the annual Christmas movies and shows. (=

So, how will you spend Black Friday?  Any changes in store for you and yours?  Or have you managed to avoid the hullabaloo thus far?  Any tips, tricks, or favorite traditions you'd like to share?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gratitude, Day 14

I took my son to the orthodontist this morning for a consultation regarding his second set of braces.  He had the first set a few years ago, complete with expanders for both his top and bottom jaws.  (They're those miniature torture devices that get cemented in and require that you turn a wire key in them at least once daily in order to manually widen the jaw.)  Due to economic concessions, we had to postpone his second set.  The hard times aren't over, but the waiting has to be.  He only has so long before the work necessary to correct his overcrowding and narrow jaw will end up including oral surgery.  So, since I don't want that to be part of the process, we're moving forward.

I made the appointment for today, because it was the earliest available appointment that would allow me to get the pricing information and still be within the open enrollment period for my insurance (so I could adjust how much to have deducted from each check for my Flexible Spending Account).  For those who don't know how all this orthodontic insurance stuff works (like me a few hours ago), my provider covers 50% of orthodontia with a lifetime cap of $1500.  Yes, you read that right, only fifteen hundred.  With the first set, we had two insurance providers.  Since my birthday falls earlier in the year (April versus November), mine was the primary last time, covering 50% of set 1, while my husband's policy covered 50% of the remainder (or 25% of the overall cost), leaving us with 25% to cover out of pocket.  This time, mine is the only coverage.  So, while they cover 50%, they'll only cover up to whatever is left of the $1500.  The good news?  They apparently overpaid a little over $600 last time.  The gal at the orthodontist's office said they had tried to get in touch with us to let us know, but they couldn't reach us.  (I blame the unreliable voice mail we had at the time.).  So, they're crediting that toward this set, along with the remainder of the $1500.  That leaves just over $3100 for me to pay out of pocket.

Now, if you're anything like me, you probably just choked a little when you read that last dollar figure.  Here's where the Flexible Spending Account comes in ... The federal government has capped FSA's to $2500 per year, so the max I can put into my FSA is $96.15 per pay period (which is a lot of money, to my way of thinking).  Still, $2500 doesn't cover the cost.  Ready for more good news?  She told me that, if I can pay the initial $2500 with my FSA card, she'll carry over the remainder til next year.  So, I can use my FSA again instead of having to scrape together the balance before he can get started.

So, today, I'm thankful for insurance and the people who understand how it works.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gratitude, Day 13

Today, I spent hours online trying to locate a photo that I'm almost certain I have saved to the hard drive of the desktop computer we do not currently use due to the disgustingly high number of viruses with which it is infected.  I was talking on the phone with my mother while I was doing so.  Though she had her own to-do list, she got up and went to her computer and began searching as well.  We didn't find the photo in question (I was able to work something else out.), but we had a few laughs.  And it really meant a lot to me that she took the time out of her day to help me.

So, I'm grateful for my mom.  We've had our share of hard times, periods when we didn't even speak to each other, but through thick and thin, we've always loved each other, no matter what.  I hope that when my own children are older, they'll love me at least half as much as I love her.

Love you, mom! <3 br="br">

Gratitude, Day 12

I just realized that I never posted yesterday.  It's been an emotional few days here and it's likely to be more emotional before things settle.  I got caught up in my emotions yesterday evening and lost track of not only the time, but also of my to-do list.  Sorry about that.

Yesterday, I had a wonderful chat with my son.  I know I already have been thankful for him in a previous post, but I am sincerely grateful for his maturity level and his insight.  He has a unique perspective that often helps me to see things in a much better way.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gratitude, Day 11

It may seem the pat response, given that today is Veteran's Day, but I am thankful for all those who have served and all those who are serving in the armed forces.  I am very proud and thankful to have been raised a "military brat," and I'm proud and thankful that my brother chose to follow in his father's footsteps by joining the Corps (Semper Fi!) when he finished high school.  I'm proud of and thankful for the years my husband served in the Navy, the years his brother and sister-in-law served in the Army, and those my stepson and his wife are currently serving in the Air Force.  I'm also extremely grateful that they all came home from their respective "ports of call" safely; I know not all do.  For those who did not, I tip my hat and say a special prayer of thanks for the sacrifices each made.  Thank you to each and every one of you.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gratitude, Day 10

Today I am grateful for the accumulation of sick time. I didn't feel good when I got up this morning, but I felt good enough to drag myself out of bed and into work. Nibbling on pretzels and sipping on Sprite made me feel better, so I made a stupid move and had pizza (delicious BBQ chicken pizza) late in the day and sent myself spiraling downward. Thankfully, I work for an employer that grants sick time based on the hours you've already worked. So I was able to come home early, kick back in my recliner, nibble on pretzels, sip sweet tea, and nap until about 4 o'clock in the morning, when my alarm dragged me to my bed for another hour of snooze-button sleep. Feeling fabulous now!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gratitude, Day 9

Today I am grateful for being able to hear God's voice through others.  It's absolutely amazing to be speaking with a complete stranger and hear something that confirms in your spirit something you had been wondering.  How blessed are we to have Him speak to us so plainly?  How many years did I travel through my life with my ears plugged, not even trying to listen?  Thank you, Lord, for caring enough about me that you would put words into someone else's mouth to comfort me without them even knowing what they were doing.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Gratitude, Day 8

Today, I'd like to give thanks for the telephone. I received two calls out of the blue today. Each of them brought me joy in their own way. It's a wonderful thing to have someone reach out from miles away and bring a smile to your face. Thank you. (=

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gratitude, Day 7

With my work schedule currently, I have Wednesdays and Thursdays as my "weekends."  Of course, this means I am generally home alone on my days off from work.  My daughter is at work, and my son is at school.  I have the dog and the cats here still, but they're not much for conversations (great for snuggling down for a nap, though).

Today, being the first day of my weekend this week, I am thankful for bright, sunshiny, lazily productive days off from work.  I'm not winning any domesticity awards today, but I'm enjoying the sunshine, and I'm very slowly working my way through my to-do list.

I got dressed, made my bed, drove my son to school (missed the bus), made a new batch of fabric softener, washed and dried 2 loads of laundry, took care of some correspondence, and caught up on some of my saved programs on the DVR.  All-in-all, not a bed day. (=

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gratitude, Day 6

I am thankful today to be living in a country where I am free to think and believe whatsoever I choose and to have the honor and privilege to put my thoughts and beliefs into action in a process in which many in this world cannot participate.  I hope those of you who read this who have the opportunity to cast a vote for the issues that concern you and the potential leaders you feel are most worthy of the jobs do so.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Gratitude, Day 5

Today, I'm thankful for bonfires.  We raked up the leaves in the front yard today and gathered up several of the smaller branches from the large branch that had been in the yard.  We piled them all in the pit that used to be where our pool was, and we had a bonfire.  It was fabulous.  We just sat and watched the fire and hung out.  Loved it!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gratitude, Day 4

Today, I'm grateful for the internet, or rather, all the people who are willing to share their tips and tricks for saving money on household expenses on the internet.

I've joined the throngs of others who have taken to making their own laundry soap.  I've done two batches of the liquid kind using this recipe (from a former coworker):
4 cups hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha Soap bar
1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax

Grate bar of soap and add to sauce pan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
Fill a 5 gallon bucket to half-full with hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water, stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
Stir again. Then fill a used clean laundry soap dispenser half full with soap, and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use.
OPTIONAL : You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled.
YIELD: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons
TOP LOAD MACHINE: 5/8 cup per load (180 washes)
FRONT LOAD MACHINES: 1/4 cup per load (640 washes)
It should be noted that I followed in my former coworker's footsteps by using a bar of Ivory soap instead of Fels-Naptha when making this.  Also, I didn't water the soap down when I poured it into an old soap bottle.  I just used less.  (This meant I didn't have to stir the bucket of soap as often to refill the bottle.)  It worked great, but when the second batch was getting low, I decided it was time to give the powdered version a try ... mostly because I really dislike the refill process when my bottle gets low (scooping out soap from the bucket and pouring it through a funnel into the bottle one ladle at a time).

I used the instructions found here.  I did not go out to purchase a new box of Borax or of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda.  I figured with only 2 cups missing out of the box of A&H and only 1 out of the Borax, it should be a close enough mix still to work.  One bit of wisdom I can pass along?  Don't store these items in an area where there will be a lot of moisture (like in the basement).  They turn into giant bricks of soap stuff.  I ended up using one of those grater things they make for pedicures to file my way through them.  (It was clean and unused, so I figured it'd be fine.)  That actually made it go pretty quickly ... until it wasytime to get out the cheese grater for the soap.

I bit the bullet and actually purchased Fels-Naptha soap for the powdered version, so I had 3 bars to grate.  My hands are still quite sore ... though they smell lovely enough.  Once everything was in my 5-gallon bucket, all that was left was to stir ... and stir ... and stir.  Since 4 of the ingredients are white powder, it's hard to tell how well it's blended.  So, I just used the grated Fels-Naptha as a guide.  Once it was fairly evenly distributed through the mix, I called it good.

As is stated on her blog, this recipe makes about 2 gallons of powdered soap and has a very mild odor.  As for cost, I've invested:
$6.99 Oxy Clean
$3.27 Fels-Naptha (3 bars @ $1.09 each)
$2.39 store-brand baking soda
$5.00 Borax
$5.00 Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
$22.65 Total
That's $22.65 for 211.5 ounces (or 10.709 cents per ounce) of laundry detergent of which at I am supposed to only have to use 1-2 Tbsp per load due to the lack of fillers.  My local Walmart sells a name-brand powdered laundry detergent in a 140 oz package for $17.97 (12.836 cents per ounce).  So, this should be an economical solution for my household.  I'll attempt to get my children to agree to help me track the number of loads of laundry we get out of it, and I'll let you know when I run out to give you an idea how long it lasts in a household which currently includes me, my 20-year-old clotheshorse daughter, and my 16-year-old son.

Freebie whiteboard from work

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Christmas without Consumerism?

I've mentioned before that I started reading The Year of Less a little while back.  Well, she's started a new monthly challenge, but this one's so big, she's stretched it to two months.

What's funny is that I actually proposed something similar to this earlier this year to my less-than-enthusiastic children.  What I proposed was a homemade/handmade Christmas.  At the time, there was plenty of prep time, so even the less crafty in the bunch would have had ample time to prepare a thoughtful gift for each person on his or her list.  But the holidays are quickly approaching, and I get the impression that I'm the only one who's done any prep work at all.

Now, I'm not saying we won't do any shopping at all.  I fully intend to peruse the Black Friday ads looking for those items we've deemed necessary to purchase (like new sleeping bags for camping, since our old ones are nearly destroyed); however, I won't be doing my usual, throw-caution-to-the-wind Christmas crunch.  And I hope that the kids won't be too terribly upset when they see that I was actually serious about how I intend our holidays to play out this year.

Instead of piles and piles of store-bought gifts that lose meaning almost as quickly as they're opened, I intend to give of my skills and my time.  Instead of spending tons of time wrapping and unwrapping all those trinkets, I want to have fun together, spending that time with each other instead of with things.  I want us to be grateful for each other and for the mountains of things we already have in ample supply.  And if we have things for which we aren't grateful, I want us to spend the time we would have spent adding to those piles, removing those things for which we are no longer grateful.  There are plenty of others out there who have so little that, perhaps we should embrace the spirit of the season and give to others instead.

Gratitude, Day 3

When I got home yesterday, my son told me that our next door neighbor (whom my husband has met, but I have yet to, though we've live here for 10 years) stopped by to offer to cut up and remove the fallen branch that's been in the front yard for months now, brought down by a wind storm this past spring.  I've been trying to give this wood away (dis-assembly required) ever since it fell, but no one accepted.  So, I sent him over to cheerfully accept the offer.

Today, when I pulled up the driveway upon returning home from work, they were in the front yard with most of the branch already cut up and loaded into their truck.  I have a (messy) yard again!  And I finally met my neighbors, who graciously offered to help out if we should ever have another branch/tree down in the yard again.

So, today, I am grateful for my neighbors.  They've done me a great service, and they got a whole truckload of wood for their wood burner to boot!  Oh, and in case you were curious, this is what I had in my front yard:

For the sake of scale, that's my gas barbeque grill on the far left and my 6-person tempered glass outdoor table just left of the still-standing source of the branch.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Gratitude, Day 2

Though it may seem silly, today I am grateful for comfort food.  There's just something about coming home on a chilly fall day and having a nice steaming bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich on homemade bread.  I know it doesn't seem like much, but even the little things are important and should never be taken for granted.  And it was delicious. (=

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gratitude, Day 1

Around this time of year, we tend to consider those things for which we are thankful.  Many of my friends have taken it a step farther and have begun posting on their Facebook feeds something for which they are thankful as a daily exercise for the month of November.  What an excellent idea!  Today's post will be the first in a series reminding myself that, no matter how dark things can seem at times, there are always reasons to be grateful.  If you'd like to join, please feel free. (=

Today, I had the happy opportunity to spend the entire day with my son (who just happened to have the day off from school due to a teacher inservice day).  It's been months since we've had a day off together, since my schedule has me working Friday - Tuesday, and his routine is Monday - Friday.  We actually used part of the day for productivity, cleaning the living room a bit and putting together our new vacuum cleaner.  The majority of the day, however, was spent just lollygagging, and it was wonderful. (=

So, today, I'm thankful for my son and the time we do get to spend together.  He won't be here with me forever, and I am so grateful for the moments we have.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Decluttering ... Virtually

In the spirit of "less is more," I decided to do a little virtual housekeeping.  Tonight's task?  My Ravelry boards.  For those who don't know, Ravelry is an amazing site for crochet & knitting enthusiasts of all skill levels.  There are tons of patterns offered and lots of camaraderie and support.  Unfortunately, when I first joined, my zeal knew no bounds, and before I knew it, I had joined a ton of member boards ...

Yes, you read that correctly ... 37 groups.
I had terrific reasons for joining each of them.  For example, the first (12 in 2012), I joined as the New Year was approaching.  The idea on that board was to set a goal, well actually 12 goals, to accomplish in 2012.  On 05November2011, I posted:
I already have one goal for 2012. So, now to put together 11 more. Hmm …
  • A granny square a day (my 365 project)
  • A scrapbook layout per week (at least)
  • Organize and catalog my yarn stash on Ravelry
  • Wind all my loose yarns into pull-from-the-center balls
  • Organize my pattern “library”
  • Organize all my WIPs currently lurking in bins in the basement
  • Finish the afghans I’ve started for my nephews
  • Crochet Erykah
  • Crochet Penny Arcade Jacket
  • Walk/run a 5k at least every other month
  • Walk/run at least one 10k
  • Hit my goal weight
I know those aren’t all crochet-related, but that’s what I hope to accomplish in 2012. If I should happen to finish (or frog) some of my stored WIPs in the process, all the better!
I was actually on track for the 1st goal right up through the end of March.  I'm slowly getting back on course with that at this point.  There hasn't been any scrapbooking done this year to my recollection.  Most of my yarn is in my Ravelry database.  The yarn balls are much as they were.  My library is all in one place, if that counts.  My WIPs are also relocated to be all together.  My nephews' afghans were in progress until early December ... I'll get back to them; I promise.  I made Erykah!  That was an amazing adventure.  Decided against Penny Arcade, as it's basically a shorter version of Erykah.  I haven't done a single 5k this year, and we won't even discuss my weight at this point.  Still some of my goals have seen progress, so it wasn't all bad.  It's just that, once I typed up my list, I didn't actually look at it again until tonight.  Not great.  I need an accessible list, and having it lost in a message board just didn't work for me.

The long and the short is that there are several that I joined out of good intentions, some that I was just interested in a technique or particular pattern, and others that were strictly research based.  Once I went through them and thought about my actual activity within them, I culled the list to:

I actually participated in the 2011 Crochet Block-a-Month CAL, toward the end of the year, and I've been steady in the 2012 version of the group this year.

2012 Blockheads is a group I started myself, as I hadn't found any other group aimed at those who were endeavoring to craft a square (or other motif) per day for the year.  Mine is not a CAL, so much as it is a sort of show-and-tell arena, a place for support and kudos.

The 365 group is for those who were inspired to create something every day for a year, as I was.

The next 2 groups are for those who are using the books depicted on their banners.  I find that, though I'm not following along to the letter, those groups are invaluable resources for information on blocks with which people had difficulty.  I can read about their trials and errors and avoid them myself.

Afghans & Blankets and Baby Block-of-the-Month CAL are both groups in which I routinely participate. 

I could go on, but I've mostly cut it down to those boards in which I actually participate and those that I at least semi-regularly use for research.  Of course, there are still the random, just because boards.

Wooly Thoughts has math-inspired crochet projects. Math and crochet?  I mean, how could I not join?  Mr. Yarn is a group for a yarn store that I joined because of a giveaway.  I'm still a member, because seeing that smiling little yarn ball makes me smile, too.  And even if I never actually participate in the group again, it's enough for me that it makes me smile.

So, I challenge you.  Find an area in your life (a small one that will give you semi-instant gratification) where you can cut back, clear out the cobwebs, and find something left over that makes you smile.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Late to the Party

This morning, while I was perusing one of the many blogs I read, I ended up hopping over to The Year of Less by Kelly in Ontario, Canada and started backtracking through the posts there. Reading her posts, I saw confirmed in print some of the stuff that has been gnawing at the back of my brain of late:
  • I have too much stuff.
  • I need to cut back.
  • I need to live smarter.
  • I need to spend more time with God. 
So, I'm joining her "Sermon on the Mount" challenge for the month of October. Granted, I'm starting late, but better late than never, right? If you'd like to join with me, just click the link below.

Be blessed!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Clean Slate

I've decided I need a do-over. Ever feel that way? Like it's just time to wipe the board and start fresh? The past 6 months have been teaching me that very lesson. Sometimes, we just struggle to give ourselves permission to forgive and forget ... especially when we need to forgive ourselves.

We are all imperfect, flawed, in need of praise, reassurance, love ... When we slip into sadness, self-pity, remorse, sometimes we need to forgive our "stinking thinking" and just move on. So today, I forgive myself.
  • I forgive myself for turning to others when I was supposed to turn to God.
  • I forgive myself for, in those times when God gave me the go-ahead to turn to others, turning to people who would only hurt the situation rather than turning to those who would help. What I did is tantamount to gossip and is wholly unproductive.
  • I forgive myself for the days when I allowed myself to sink into the recliner with the remote in hand instead of handling issues that needed handling.
  • I forgive myself for the moments when I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by circumstance.
  • I forgive myself for the days when I ignored reason and ate piles of Little Debbie snacks, potato chips, and the like, knowing they weren't really what I was craving.
  • I forgive myself for being too hard on myself and others.
In addition to forgiveness, of course, I also allow that I will be changing my ways.  In fact, I already am.  I started my day today with a quick prayer before my feet even hit the floor.  Then I started picking up.  I have done some laundry, sorted through some paperwork, and answered some correspondence.  I had string cheese for breakfast instead of buttered toast with strawberry preserves.  I chose tea instead of soda.

Will I mess up?  Of course I will.  We all do.  However, I know that I can always step back up on course.  How about you?  What could you do with a clean slate?  Why not find out?