Archive for the ‘Cleaning & Organizing’ Category

My Monday rant: I’m not merely swamped, I’m tsunami-ed. Overrun with the remnants of an at-home Super Bowl watch (no actual party but we made a mess like we had one.) At least the dishes are clean, but there’s a slew of them to put away, and bags of snack chips and crackers an cookies strewn across the island.

After my two-day stint on the couch loaded up on cold meds last week, the never-ending mound of laundry has mounded higher. The refrigerator is barely contained chaos and probably has a few science experiements growing in the dark recesses. My fount of of junk mail overrunneth. And – like that wasn’t bad enough – the contents of the attic are now stacked precariously in the bonus room. We started another project: installing new shelving. But by Saturday evening, we ran short on supplies and failed to finish. My closet floor is a land mine field of every pair of shoes I’ve worn in the past month. Empty shoeboxes yawn on the floor. Our garage is still cluttered with the remains of refinishing the kitchen table and chairs. (A project I DID finish, even if I left a mess out there.) Besides, that’s not the only mess out there I need to work on. Ugh.

Basically, my house looks like Richmond after Grant ran it through. (Actually, it would probably look BETTER in the aftermath of a battle.) I’d like to say this is a highly unusual occurrence, but since the holidays, we have been gradually sinking into this pit of despair.

Bottom line: I have too-many-to-count projects started and stalled. I pride myself on being fairly nimble and adept at multi-tasking but the current state of affairs hints that I might not be as adroit as I think. Certainly I need to get better at finishing what I start. Although new projects are always so beguiling, and I tell myself I can finish one AND start another one simultaneously.

Because every malady needs a name and an acronym, I dub mine MPTDD: Multiple Project Time Deficiency Disorder. I don’t lack attentiveness, I merely lack the necessary time to complete every project. And picking one project to focus all my efforts on just wouldn’t be fair to all the other projects, now would it?

And as wise folks have pointed out, the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. So there.  I did manage to make our bed up (with all nine million pillows and everything) while my last cup of morning coffee was brewing and my English muffin was toasting. So maybe I can multi-task – at least with the help of kitchen appliances.

Next on today’s to-do list is a quick cleaning of the downstairs bathrooms and running (literally) the vacuum. It’s embarrassing to see artificial pine needles and itty bitty fake snowflakes in little drifts in the corners. The refrigerator might get an overhaul while I fix dinner, although that will mean skipping weight lifting and running tonight. Sigh. The bonus room will have to be endured this week until we can carve out an evening to finish the shelving.  And just in case you get curious and want to come see this hot mess for yourself, be forewarned: if I answer the door and give you the tour of the crime scene, I will probably put you to work. My shame does not preclude me from asking for help.

Otherwise, I will console myself with the knowledge that it’s always darkest before the dawn. And there are still six-plus weeks until spring, and once the temperatures start to warm up a bit, I might be a bit more inclined to tidy the garage. And hey, six weeks is enough time to start at least a half-dozen more projects, right?

Happy Monday,

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Around here, the past couple of winters have been really mild. Uncommonly mild, even. Last year, we watched and waited for winter to arrive, and it never did. Not really, anyway. We just kind of shivered our way into spring.

But apparently THIS winter has decided to settle in and give us a good run for our money, at least in terms of temperatures. If I could ask for anything, I would like a little snow to go with the cold. Please and thank you.

This is how our week is shaping up, weather-wise.
I know, I know. I shouldn’t whine. This is nothing compared with some parts of the country, where minus signs frequently appear in front of temperatures, and polar vortex is NOT a noteworthy weather phenomenon. But here in middle Tennessee, we live on the teetering transitional edge between north and south. And some years, our average lows hover in the mid-30s – not exactly tropical, but not exactly locked in the icy clutches of winter, either.

Part of me is glad I don’t have my greenhouse up and running this year and  part of me wishes I did. Even on a cold, blustery winter day, a little sunshine and a space heater can make it feel like spring. But there is a big price to pay – namely the cost of keeping the inside above freezing every night.

While we start the inevitable countdown to spring (I generally begin marking off the weeks to last frost as soon as Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone), I’m focusing my time and attention on indoor stuff: cleaning, organizing, crafting, cooking and exercising. Maybe not in that order.

Last week’s menu had several new items from January’s Southern Living recipes. This week’s menu has a few more recipes from that issue. I’ve finally embraced the no-knead bread recipe, and we’ve eaten two loaves in as many weeks. I don’t know why it took me so long to give it a shot, but I’m glad I did. I got February’s Southern Living in the mail over the weekend and there are several more good-sounding recipes in it, so my family can rest assured they will get a nice mix of old favorites and new foods over the next several weeks.

I’ve kept up with my daily Bible reading and the 52-week organizing challenge; this week is pantry and spice rack cleanout. Luckily for me, I had done a pantry re-org before Christmas, so I’m coasting for a few days. Next week’s challenge is to set up a home recycling center, which is unnecessary because we have curbside recycling, and they sort everything for us, so if the temperatures aren’t bitterly cold, I hope to use that week to clear out a lot of the clutter in the garage. No promises, though.

I like to think of it as part of the organization challenge, but whatever you call it, I’ve abandoned any pretense at limiting my Fiesta collection. And so I’ve begun the hunt for a new/second hutch for the kitchen…a two-piece style with a breakfront so I can eek out a little more counter space as well as have more display room for my vintage dishes, and lower cabinets and drawers to stow cookbooks and linens and a few less-used cooking and serving pieces. I found a Hoosier-style oak cabinet last weekend at an antique mall, and I loved everything about it except the width (too narrow) and the price (too high.)  I’m holding out hope that stalking Craigslist will eventually yield the piece with exact dimensions and price I’m looking for.

So how is your winter going? Are you like me, and ready for it to be over and done with already? Or are you settling in and enjoying the season?

Happy Monday,

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624px-XRF_12daysYesterday was the 12th day of Christmas, if you’re keeping up with the rather archaic tradition. But I didn’t give or receive 12 drummers drumming. No…my true love braved the wind and tucked away the last of the outdoor decorations in their storage tubs while I dismantled the Christmas tree.

Today the decorations and tree will head back to their space in the attic, and that will conclude the holiday season.  I am very grateful to be indoors because baby it is definitely COLD outside. We are expecting to hit 8 degrees (F) today. I’m not sure we’ve dipped down to single digits in a couple of years, and I really don’t remember the last time we had such a chilly day.

With the first week in 2014 past, here’s where I’m at on my resolutions, which address four areas: spiritual, cooking, health and cleaning/organizing.

Our church family has been challenged to all participate in a Bible reading challenge and I’m tracking through the Bible in chronological fashion, thanks to One Year Bible’s easy Facebook links. This one should be like riding a bike. (The one I fell off last fall, so close to the end. Sigh.)

I’m also planning to try Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking challenge. The first week was eggs, and I took a stab at shirred (baked) eggs on Saturday. Let’s just say I need to give them another go…and not overcook them. The concept has great potential for weekend Eggs Benedict if I can perfect the cooking time. This week’s challenge is to try a Polish dish. I like stuffed cabbages, but my family is not fond of them, so I’m not sure what we’ll do…maybe pierogies?

To counteract the effects of taking a cooking challenge, my healthy side will continue incorporating more juicing into my weekday meals, and I’m gong to reintroduce myself to my Body Pump classmates and the treadmill. I lost a solid five pounds in the weeks leading up to the holidays and – more importantly – lost my sweet tooth. Not a single piece of Halloween candy.  Alas, the sweet tooth found its way home for the holidays, but if I lost it once, I can do it again.

On the cleaning/organizing side of things, I am…intrigued by this weekly challenge. It looks interesting, but we’ll see if I can stick with it long-term.

So how are you settling into 2014? Do tell!

Happy Monday,

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We got back very late Sunday night from a delightful Thanksgiving spent with family in Kansas. It was an adventure that involved a ticket (me) and buying a new-to-us car (Mr. Official.) Yeah, we really bought a car en route from Kansas to Tennessee. We don’t just take the road less traveled, we blaze a trail where no one else would ever think of going.

As soon as we pulled in the driveway, Swimmer Girl threw her bags in her Jeep, gave me a quick hug and a promise to call when she got back to school, and off she went. We unloaded luggage, shoved two HUGE grocery bags filled with frozen green chilies in my already stuffed deep freeze, and laid down our weary heads. My eyes didn’t close until I got a call from Swimmer Girl that assured me she had made it over Monteagle Mountain in the dead of a cold, rainy night and was safely ensconced in her warm dorm suite. (And you think a colicky baby can keep you awake.)

As I waited for her call, I mentally planned out my Monday: pick up the dogs from the kennel, get caught up on laundry (blissfully light thanks to doing a few loads courtesy of my mom’s washer and dryer before we returned home); plan dinner, call to schedule a plumber at our old house and a visit from the heat and air guys out here; and try to squeeze in a workout this evening.

The thought of that overstuffed and very frosty freezer kept nagging at me, and I knew before I dived into the holidays, I really needed to dethaw it (a perfectly acceptable term in Southern parlance). And the freezer in the kitchen was a frozen mess of this-n-that, too. It was high time to pull everything out, toss the frostbitten stuff, take a serious inventory and organize the contents of both freezers.

At first I told myself I would wait for a “good” time to tackle this thankless task. I looked at the extended forecast, hoping against hope a really cold day was on tap for this week, which does make it easier to keep the contents cold while I defrost the big freezer. No such luck. And honestly, do you ever find a GOOD time to defrost and clean out your freezer? Yeah, me either. So today’s overcast and cool day was as good as any other.

I didn’t get pictures of the messy “before” but here’s the afters…because it’s good to gloat I mean inspire others. One of these days, I’ll make good on my thread to hit the Container Store and get proper freezer bins. But for now…IMG_4549
my herbs and bread baking supplies are reunited and handy.

IMG_4552and I have a pretty good idea how much chicken and fish I need to use up sooner than later.

Out in the deep freezer, things improved as well.
My baking chips, nuts and dried fruit get top billing (yes, I really have an entire bin full of baking chips and another full of nuts and fruit) and all the cuts of pork and beef and cheese are handy.

IMG_4555I can even send Middle Son out to fetch frozen vegetables without sketching a diagram to follow.

IMG_4554My containers of homemade broth and those gotta-have quick-fix foods are fairly accessible (and you don’t need an ice pick to dislodge them.)

Defrosting a freezer, or even just organizing all those frozen foods is never a fun or fast job, but I’m pretty sure my efforts will reduce our grocery bills over the next several weeks as I use up items I had forgotten I had. And it will be much more pleasant to dive into either freezer and pull out whatever item I happen to need. Time to let the cooking and baking frenzy begin, starting with some bolognese sauce and spaghetti tonight.

Happy Monday,

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January is typically cold in the northern hemisphere…maybe that’s why this is a slow news week, historically speaking.  Throughout the ages, people were busy just trying to stay warm in late January….fuggetabout having any epiphanies.

But there are a few dates worth noting.  For one, Coca-Cola was incorporated on this day in 1892.  And in 1939, Jeff Smith was born.  I loved watching the Frugal Gourmet on PBS when our boys were young – before HGTV and all the other reality shows were even a twinkle in anyone’s eye.  (We also watched Justin Wilson and This Old House most Saturday mornings. Those were the days.)

On January 24, 1950, P.L. Spencer received a patent for a microwave.  I remember our first microwave in the late 1970s or early 1980s.  It was as big as a real oven, and we had a lot of fun figuring out what it could and couldn’t do with it.  (We quickly discovered that it could soften chocolate chips without melting them.  We also discovered it could burn chocolate chips.)

Speaking of chocolate, January 27 is national chocolate day.  Of course, around here, ANY day is chocolate day if we want it to be. Why wait for one day a year to celebrate it?

And on January 27, 1880, Thomas Alva Edison patented the electric incandescent lamp.

I know I said – just yesterday – that my only two projects are focused on sprucing up the master closets and kitchen base cabinets…and they are.  But I did talk Mr. Official into bringing home this new light fixture for the kitchen last weekend. (We haven’t yet decided if it will go over the bar or the table but both builder-grade lights are going to be swapped out for something with a little more pizzazz and panache.)

736916610667lgIt looks fantastic with the old-fashioned Edison light bulbs (and I am confident that there will soon be LED lights that *LOOK* like the old Edison bulbs, but much more energy efficient.)

We have Pottery Barn to thank for this canning-jar-turned-light trend…they started it with fixtures like these several years ago.  Pinterest is full of examples of people DIY-ing these fixtures, but I know my limits, and electrical engineering is definitely beyond my limits.  So this fixture (from Lowe’s if you’re interested) fits my bill perfectly and I’m pretty sure between the two of us we can install a couple new fixtures out-of-the-box.

Happy Tuesday,

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This time of year brings out my inner OCD/ADHD beast.  Like a real shrew, it’s small, hyperactive and has a voracious appetite.  Like the aptly named figure in Shakespeare’s story, it is difficult to tame.  My shrew(d) monster yearns to lay waste to messy closets and gut the cluttered cabinets …at least until something else captures its attention.  It was briefly awakened last fall when I ogled IKEA’s closet organizers; I came home and  announced to Mr. Official that all I really wanted for my birthday was a weekend trip to Atlanta and return with everything to re-do the closets. I then made myself wait until after the holidays to start tracking down the specific gadgets and gizmos that promise to bring peace, harmony, tranquility and organizational nirvana to my world.

Now that the holidays are over, and my birthday is looming large, I began the hunt.  After a few hours okay, days (if we’re being honest) of ferocious internet hunting, I found myself with a wish-list of to-do’s as long as my arm, and arguably more expensive than said limb.  Organization doesn’t come cheap.  At least not the pretty kind.

Then reality and frugality set in.  For starters, once I had the measurements sketched it out on paper, I had to accept a bitter pill:  the IKEA pieces that had danced like sugarplums in my head were too big – and just too expensive – for the space. After scaling back my dreams, I found a modest system with a natural cherry finish I really wanted.  And then I discovered it was on clearance.  A few months ago.  Not only can I not get that style for a song, I can’t scrounge up the pieces I would need at any price, period.  Sigh.

Back to square one.  To further complicate things, all those online expeditions had me dreaming up myriads of other home improvement schemes…painting, curtains, bedroom redux, stairwell photo gallery, framing the mirrors in the bathroom…the list goes on.  Eventually the mist cleared and sanity took back its rightful place in my head.

  • First of all I can’t do everything all at once.
  • Second, I’m quick to want but slow to spend $$$ on semi-permanent fixtures (like closet systems or paint jobs.)
  • Third, I know myself well enough to know that no matter how feverishly I organize, if I don’t maintain it, all is for naught.

That said, we have lived here for almost two years and beyond painting the bedrooms when we moved in, I’ve held off from any drastic changes or expenditures. So here’s my 2013 wish list, in order of intended purchase and installation:

1. Master bedroom closets.  Our closets are not huge by modern standards (each is 72″ x 68″ x 47″ x 44″ with an angled door), but they are palatial compared to past closets, especially the one in our last home.

The builder installed wire shelving in these closets.  (Yes, I know it’s the cheapest option.  I also know what this house sold for originally and in that price range, you should not find wire shelving in the closets.)  I’d like to say I’m not a shelving snob, but I confess, I am.  If you can have built-in closet storage without taking food from your children’s mouths, it’s worth it.

The builder also committed the heinous crime of painting the closet walls white.  In a house that does not have a white wall anywhere else (save the garage), they painted the closets and pantry white. Gah.  Before I can install the new closet fittings, I’ll have to remove all the contents and the wire shelves, patch the holes and paint the closets (and the bathroom, while I’m at it, because it doesn’t match the bedroom.)  I predict several days of dealing with clothes everywhere.  Ugh.

The plan is to install stacks of white corner shelves, rubbed oil bronze clothing rods with white shelves and side pieces, lots of shoe shelves (for me) and storage towers with drawers and cubbies for my jumbled jewelry and scarves, and a hamper in Mr. Official’s closet for his dry cleaning.

And maybe even some snazzy new lighting to make it easier to see our stuff.

After much measuring, fretting, re-measuring and comparing various systems, I’ve settled on pieces that will – I hope – optimize the space and storage, and give the look of custom built-ins without the hefty pricetag of custom built-ins. Something that looks like this:

My original IKEA dream closets would have cost $1400 per closet.  The bill for my smaller and more modest-priced pieces will come at about 25% of that.  I’m taming the shrew(d) beast.

And if all goes well, for my second act…

2. Kitchen cabinet makeover.  I love my kitchen’s size and openness.  I love the massive granite island and having a second sink across from the stove, and a coffee bar.  But I don’t love that the base cabinets are bereft of pull-out drawers.  Our last home had a kitchen that clocked in at 90 square feet. When we bought cabinets for it, I ordered double pull-outs in every base cabinet and it was worth every extra penny.

However, I’ve found a source for aftermarket two-tiered pullouts and pull-out racks for baking sheets.  No more squatting on creaking knees to fish out a pan from the bottom of the stack in the furthest, darkest depths of my cabinets. The total bill comes to $400 plus shipping.  Another frugal victory; both closets and all the cabinet hardware is still less than the cost of one IKEA closet.

And that’s going to be the end of my organizational quest for now.  Because no matter how much I save, it’s still a pretty good chunk of money, time and effort. There are changes and improvements in our future (Mr. Official keeps muttering about putting in a putting green), but I’m happy to train the beast to focus on these two jobs for now. I’ll snap some before, in-progress and voila! shots along the way, along with sources for my frugal finds.  Stay tuned!

Happy Monday,

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I don’t know about you, but when I decide to clean something, I go all in.  On Saturday morning, we enjoyed cornmeal and blueberry pancakes from a cookbook Middle Son gave me for Christmas (the recipe needs some tweaking but it has potential.) And as we ate, I kept looking over at the kitchen and thinking about the pent-up post-holiday clutter that never seemed to quite go away no matter how many times I glared at it. Hmmmm.

So as soon as breakfast was over, I set in to clean, and clean I did.  The dishwasher and oven cleaned themselves, but every surface and several cabinets got some one-on-one time with me.  Every countertop was completely cleared, scrubbed and buffed.   The backsplash areas got a damp cloth and stubborn stains got treated to the magic of a Magic Eraser.  The plasticware cabinet was overhauled and the coffee grinder was relegated to the garage.  Every now and again, I might need it…but with the arrival of the Keurig, those times are few and far between these days.  As I wiped off the top of the microwave, a strip of plastic suddenly appeared…it was one of those protective strips they put on in the factory so it doesn’t get scratched from store to installation.  For shame.  This house was finished over six years ago and we’ve lived here for almost two years….and I’m just now finding and removing it? I *do* wipe that ledge atop the microwave occasionally, I swear.


The finishing touch was to scrub and buff the sinks.  I had seen this tip on Pinterest and decided to give it a whirl.  Well, at least the last part.  I used my trusty Barkeeper’s Friend to do the scouring, then did the olive oil buff job.  They are definitely shinier and I hope they’ll stay a little cleaner…for at least a few days.  IMG_3254

Do you clean your sinks?  I hear horror stories of people who don’t…really?  I scour mine at least a couple times a week, and definitely after any raw meat has dripped or dribbled in a basin.

Even clean, the kitchen is visually busy.  My rainbow of Fiestaware isn’t exactly a soothing monochromatic color scheme and I use tools, prep bowls and appliances too often to keep them tucked away in cabinets.


But when it’s clean, it definitely sets a better “tone” for our open floor plan.   And I know the kitchen won’t stay this clean for long.  We work hard, play hard, and eat hard in this area and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  For now, we’ll do what we can to maintain it….and in a few weeks, I’ll be running a sinkful of scalding hot water and doing it all over again.

After the kitchen was finished, Swimmer Girl and I headed out for pedicures and a movie (Les Miserables). Five hours of uninterrupted mother-daughter weekend time = awesome.

I hope your weekend was filled with some activities that gave you a sense of satisfaction, and some opportunities to savor a special moment.  Those are the best weekends, in my book.

Happy Monday,

P.S. Yes, I’m still keeping up with my daily Bible readings, which is proving extremely convenient since they are posted on Facebook every day.  Last week’s passages blazed a trail through the lives of patriarchs, and I’ve once again pondered our oh-so-human frailties:  deception, favoritism and envy marred the relationships of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their families.  This week will focus on Joseph…and his ability to see God and good in the trials of life.  We could all learn a lesson or two from his story.

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