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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,
Terry

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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.
forecast
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,
Terry

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Late last fall, I undertook the job of refinishing our nearly 30-year-old kitchen table and chairs. (Wow, that just sounds so…old.)

The table is a well-made classic oak clawfoot table – it goes from a 4-foot round to a 5- or 6-foot oval with the addition of one or two leaves.

The chairs are Windsor-style. The table was a hand-picked gift from my parents and four chairs were bought as unfinished from Builders Square (before they were bought out by The Home Depot.)

If you’re not a kid, you remember oak in the mid-80s. It came in one glowing hue, fondly termed “golden.” Mine was a tad darker than some, but it still gleamed brightly. When Swimmer Girl outgrew her high chair, baby made five, and I found a pair of chairs similar to the others. They were pre-finished and didn’t match the others, but at least we had seats for everyone and one to spare.

I overlooked the set’s dated and mismatched stains as long as possible, but the table’s top was starting to show its age in profound ways. In many places, the finish was finished. Gone. Finis. Drinking glasses left dark water rings that soaked into the wood and took forever to dry. This is the “before” picture.

IMG_4545And truth be told, I finished those four chairs in haste so we would have seating – they were never my proudest project.  Looking back, I was juggling a toddler, a full course load in college and trying to manage household duties. In those days, DIY was just coming into vogue – there were no blogs or cable shows to inspire us, and home improvement store selection was pretty bare bones. I had little time or money to spend on stain and sealers, so I did what I could with what I was readily available. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As I started stripping and sanding, I had to smile at the chair that was the designated toddler seat: it had bare spots rubbed where the booster seat slid back and forth. And it had a chewed spot on one of the rungs. My best guess is frequent toddler food spills led to enthusiastic dog licking…and occasional gnawing.

After a quick strip and light sanding, my pieces were ready to stain. I used General Finishes gel stains in nutmeg for the table and java for the chairs, and a waterproof sealer.  That sounds really fast, but the fact is I did it as the season was cooling down into damp, rainy weather, so there were several days’ drying time between coats, and I changed my mind on the finish coat, so instead of finishing in a week, it was more like a….month? (I’d like to say we ate in the dining room every night in the interim, but the truth is, we ate out more than we ate in that month.)

I admit my mind wandered while I researched stains and labored over the refinishing process. I thought of my friends who either have or covet a rustic farmhouse table: rectangular shape, plank top, and chunky legs. Bench seating mixed with old-style sturdy chairs.

I briefly contemplated changing out our table and chairs for something new – either a farmhouse table, or an old-fashioned school table with swing-out seats, like this one from World Marketschool cafeteria tableBut I couldn’t justify the expense OR the waste of discarding a perfectly good table and chairs that just needed a little TLC.

When I was I looking around at my options, I discovered that “farmhouse table” isn’t as narrowly defined as I thought. It seems the common tie that binds this style is rusticity. No sleek, glossy, polished glass, brass or chrome in sight. No lovely, delicate Queen Anne-style cherry legs. Those pretty tables are reserved for formal dinners and diners.

A farmhouse table is for leisurely, boisterous, talkative family suppers and hearty breakfasts. Claw-foot and other pedestal tables, be they square, round or rectangular, are now incorporated into the farmhouse family. And that suits me fine…now that its finish is updated, it will hopefully serve as our family’s favorite eating spot for many more years. No pretense, just a sturdy spot to gather us together for the holidays and the everydays.

Have you refinished any furniture lately? It’s not hard, just time-consuming. But I can vouch for the fact that the time you spend sanding and staining may give you time to reminisce…and that can be a pretty good use of your time.

Happy refinishing,
Terry

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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,
Terry

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Learning to love the old

We love (love, love) new. That new car smell – yum. New technology is as seductive as any mythological siren. New clothes are first off the hanger when we are looking for an outfit. We seek out new places to visit, new foods to try, new movies to see…we love new. Right?

fresh-start-new-yearAnd there’s something oh-so-beguiling about a new year. We buy a new calendar and all 12 months sprawl out in front of us. We like to think of January as a fresh start. A blank page waiting to be written. We clean our homes and vow to keep them that way. We resolve to clean our consciences and live better. Do better. BE better.

But no matter how much we all love the idea of a fresh start, the fact is we can’t trade ourselves in for a new model. We have to work with what we’ve got. We can clean and scrub, but we are going to continue to live in the same house, whether we’re talking figuratively or spiritually.  Realistically, New Year’s resolutions are really more about rearranging things…like priorities. Or maybe doing some renovations or remodeling – knocking out bad habits and replacing them with better, healthier ones.

So while we’re busy identifying what we want to change in our lives this year, let’s remember to love what is good and sound and make up the best parts of who we are. If we don’t love the old us, we’re not going to be happy with the new-and-improved us, either.

Happy new year,
Terry

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Recently, a yoga instructor encouraged us to “not settle for the first position your body gives you.” It’s good advice to stretch yourself – figuratively and literally – a little more, hold a pose a few seconds beyond what is comfortable, and to be mindful of your position, posture and breathing. By not settling for what is comfortable and “good enough,” you gradually improve your yoga practice and become stronger and more flexible, and positions that were too advanced and too hard can become possible.

Her admonition has stuck with me this week, as I look back at last year and look ahead to the next one. There were days when “good enough” seemed to be all I had to give. But if I’m honest with myself, some days I settled for good enough when I knew I could do more. So instead of making specific resolutions this year, I think I might apply this concept to more areas of my life: don’t settle for good enough. That doesn’t mean demanding more from others, but to stretch myself:

To be a little more grace-filled, graceful and gracious to others, even when they don’t deserve it. (Even when I don’t feel particularly full of grace.)

To give a little bit more of myself than the task requires. Even when I’ve already gone above and beyond – give just a tiny bit more, especially when it will make a difference. And even when it won’t be noticed or appreciated by anyone else. I will know that I gave my best.

To remain more conscious of my inner attitude and the demeanor I reflect to the world. To look up and out past myself, smile more at strangers and laugh more, listen more, and love more with friends and family.

I can’t change the world.

I can’t demand change from anyone else.

I can’t end poverty, hatred, envy and strife.

But if I change me, by requiring just a little more than “good enough,” it’s possible to make a difference. Just as a single, nearly weightless leaf can land on still water and make ripples larger than itself, I can – perhaps – gently cHappy-New-Year-2014-HD-Wallpapers3hange my world, by refusing to settle. Even one tiny candle in a dark room can provide welcome light to everyone in its vicinity. But only if it’s willing to give up some of itself in order to burn brightly.

What will you do with 2014? It is a one-time gift and we will only have it for 8,760 hours. May this be one year we can all look back and say we are leaving it better than we started it.

Happy 2014,
Terry

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Why they call it fall…

Here in middle Tennessee, we have enjoyed warmer-than-usual temperatures for the past several weeks. Last night I smiled as I followed a toddler down our church’s hallways – it was nearly her bedtime and she was perfectly comfortable in a sleeveless sundress. It’s just one of the many examples of why I love living in a mild climate. (In contrast, South Dakota and Wyoming have already seen a blizzard. Brrr.)

Perhaps this year’s extended fall is nature’s way of making up for a slow warm-up this spring and a summer than never really heated up. But whatever the reason, it looks like it’s time for the seasons to change. There’s no such thing as a truly graceful fall, and so it is with our weather:
october weather
Today and tomorrow we’ll hit close to 80 again – probably for the last time this year. In two days we’ll be lucky to hit 70, and the day after that we’ll be in the mid-60s. The extended forecast shows us bumping along in the 60s and low 70s throughout October, and the temperatures will continue to drift and tumble downward.

It’s time to trade out the sleeveless tops for something with a bit more coverage.

No complaints here – the marked change in seasons gives me the perfect excuse to change our family dinner menus and decor along with my clothing choices.

Later today I’m hoping to take advantage of this last gasp of summer weather to work outdoors and finish refinishing our kitchen table and chairs. And then it will be time to start winding things down for the season…and winding up for the next one.

Happy fall, y’all.
Terry

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