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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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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
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my herbs and bread baking supplies are reunited and handy.

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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.
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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,
Terry

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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.

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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.

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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,
Terry

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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No, I’m not talking church history.  I’m talking about taking back my house, one piece at a time.

When I said I had been giving cooking and cleaning a lick-and-a promise, I wasn’t kidding.  Dinnertime for the past several weeks has been “every man/woman for themselves.”  Grocery store trips were hit-and-run dashes for a few items I knew we needed, and a few frozen fast foods to appease my children  and my conscience. (They won’t starve. There is food.  It’s unhealthy, calorie- and preservative-laden food. But it is sustenance.)

When the groceries came in the door with me, things got shoved in the right location, generally speaking.  Dry foods in the pantry, cold stuff in the fridge or freezer.  But calling it “putting away” everything would be a bit of a stretch.

There was never a convenient time to actually empty the fridge and cull out the fuzzy uglies hiding in the very back recesses.  The pantry went from shallow walk-in to “open the door and hope nothing falls on you” with zero room to get even my petite little foot inside the door.  It was bad.

And if confession is good for the soul, a thorough cleaning after confession is even better.  Earlier this week I finally had enough of the clutter and guilt:  I drained my second cup of morning coffee for courage, ran a sinkful of hot soapy, bleachy water, grabbed a rag and began clearing the vegetable bins, the lunchmeat and cheese drawer, and then worked my way through the rest of the fridge.  I didn’t have as much to throw away as I had feared, and now I know what I have on hand.  I continued my cathartic cleansing in the pantry.  Again, not as much stale, moldy stuff as I feared, but order has been restored there, too.

The restocking trip to the store was pleasantly brief and inexpensive.  I have all the ingredients to actually COOK the items on this week’s menu, so no excuses and no eating out on Sunday.

Restoring some order is definitely restorative.  Now to tackle the dustbunnies under the couch.   I’m guessing they – like their real-life counterparts – tend to procreate at lightning speed.  And then it’ll be out to the garden to bushwhack the jungle and see what can be salvaged.

Happy restoring,
Terry

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I often joke about my trio of ne’er-do-well fairies: cleaning, cooking and laundry.  The truth is, I struggle with maintaining our home.  I can and do occasionally turn into a cleaning fool, and deep clean and organize to the nth degree.

I know the value of “PEEP” place for everything

(You know, “a Place for Everything and Everything in its Place.”)

Our new home makes that a little easier to do, but even with more storage, my shoes wind up covering the floor of my closet (Mr. Official is truly thankful we no longer share a closet, I’m sure.)  The daily mail may wind up in its designated spot, or somewhere on the kitchen table or island.  And it might hang out there for a day or two or ten.

Did you know?  Dust bunnies multiply almost as fast as their real-life counterparts, especially under beds and couches and chairs.  It’s a fact and I have the evidence to prove it.

However, my view of housekeeping has evolved over time.  In the beginning of our marriage, I viewed it as a chore to be delayed as long as possible, then I would dole out just enough of my precious time to get the job done.  Done well, but not happily.  Repeat as needed.

Then I realized that while I didn’t like cleaning the house, I really do like having a clean house.  For some enlightened people, that is the moment when a cleaning service enters their life.  I salute them for making the obvious and wise choice; it’s just not in my nature to go that route.

A few years ago, I decided to dig into what bugs me most about cleaning.  I thought long and hard about which chore(s) I despised most, and why.

Truthfully?  No single chore fills me with dread.  When I thought about it, I can’t say I hate any specific task, and some are pleasant..or at least it’s pleasant to step back and admire the results of some of them.

So why the foot dragging? Mostly, I begrudge giving up time.  Which is why I struggle with FlyLady’s method.  I’m all about cleaning my kitchen daily (and I thank her for the shiny sink routine), but I just can’t bring myself to stop everything and do a prescribed task each morning and evening.  For starters, I am not convinced a bathroom is really clean after 15 minutes of effort.  Nor can I do a whole-house blessing in an hour each week.  I’ve tried, I’ve failed.  More than once.  And once I start, I’m sucked into a half-day cleaning marathon.  I’d rather knock it all out at once, rather than do a bit here and there, and never feel my house is totally clean. Shrug.  I know it works for some – just not for me.

And so I spent most of Saturday catching up on housework I had postponed in favor of spring gardening and maintaining a schedule filled past capacity for the past several weeks.  Mr. Official and Oldest Son made plans to head to my mother-in-law’s for yard work; my inner child would have preferred to tag along and be in or next to her pool for the day, but my dusty baseboards and baskets of unfolded clothes won out.  I vacuumed, cleaned baseboards, mopped, caught up the laundry, dusted, cleaned our bathroom and the guest bath, and gave the kitchen a once-over, then headed to the store for a few groceries.

By the time I was done, I still had some daylight to water the garden and play in the dirt for a bit.  Not as refreshing as a day at the pool, but summer hasn’t officially begun yet, and there will be other days for that.

So if you’re a housework dodger or hater, take heart.  And take stock:  ask yourself what you dislike about housework.  Your honest appraisal may surprise you and start you on an evolutionary path as it did me.

Happy cleaning,
Terry

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The feathered nest

Housework.

Just think about the word.  It’s two words:  house and work.  For many of us it calls to mind negative words like “routines” and “tasks” and “chores” and “drudgery.”

But then I think of the phrase “feathering the nest.”

It alludes to how birds (and it’s probably the girl birds) who line their nest/home with feathers to create a comfortable and safe environment for their family.

Most of us have been blessed with a home that is warm, safe, dry and comfortable.  We have added furniture for seating, sleeping and eating; appliances to keep and prepare our food, wash and dry our clothes, and generally make our lives easier.  Even the most humble American home or apartment is palatial when compared to how most of the world lives.

If birds are happy just to methodically gather up feathers to cushion their nests, why do we view taking care of our homes as menial work to be avoided as long as possible, and then done under duress?

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve often viewed it that way too.  And some tasks are not particularly pleasant, but if they’re done regularly, they really aren’t that gross or off-putting.

These thoughts went through my mind as I did a fairly deep cleaning of our bedroom and bathroom this week. (I have no idea if I’m in sync with FlyLady or not; I follow her general philosophy and do general surface cleaning regularly, and focus my efforts on various areas of the house in a somewhat regular rotation.)

On this particular day, I stripped the bed down to the mattress, tossed the mattress pad and blanket in the wash, rotated the mattress.  While the laundry was going, I let some bleach work its wonders on the shower grout, cleaned the bathroom and then hopped in the shower to finish wiping it down and wash my hair.  When the bedding was dry, I remade the bed and hung fresh towels.

All-told my efforts took about an hour.  When I was done, the bathroom sinks were shined and the toilet scrubbed (as they are each week); the baseboards were wiped down and all the shower crevices were bright and clean again, and the linens were all changed.  Vacuuming and mopping had been done just a few days prior, so I skipped it.

An hour to “feather my nest.”  How can I view that as drudge work?

Happy cleaning,

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Home, sweet home

Houses are a bit like us girls – they can use a day of beauty every now and then, ya know?  We can’t take a house to a spa, but we can treat our dwelling to a day of refining and beautifying.

No, this isn’t yet another post about our new house.  We recently offered our old place for lease (read: we stuck a sign in the yard) and were pleasantly surprised by the immediate response (within hours!) from several families interested in renting it.

As I showed the house and eventually made arrangements to lease it to one particular family, I began to look at our old home through the eager and bright eyes of a prospective occupant, rather than the weary eyes of the one who moved out.

The whole-house paint job looks great, but I realized the blinds needed cleaning (they weren’t gnarly gross but they wouldn’t pass anyone’s white glove test.)  Ditto for the windows.  And the floors.  And the bathrooms and kitchen were passable, but I knew if I were moving in, I’d have to spend some time cleaning before I put my own things in the cabinets and drawers.

So this past week, I spent several hours (over the course of several days) deep cleaning and gently buffing and polishing everything to move-in condition.  At long last, the storage towers and hanging rods were installed in the bedroom closets, a new wire shelf/rack was up in the hall closet, the spot where the TV hung in the master bedroom was painted over, the bathrooms were sanitized to operating room condition, and all the floors were mopped and gleaming.  A flipped-over closet switch was righted (up is on, off is down), and the front door lever now operates properly.  It’s the pesky little things you live with when it’s yours, but you wouldn’t wish on anyone else. (And after you do them, you wonder why you didn’t find a few spare minutes to do it months or years ago!)

As I worked, I thought back to our own move-in experiences over the years.  As I reminisced, I thought how nice it would have been to find a few essentials and niceties to welcome us.

So I put myself in their shoes and made sure all the toilet paper holders were full and the bathroom sinks each had a dispenser of hand soap. I wiped out all the bathroom drawers and put a penny (heads-up) in each bathroom (because everyone needs a little luck, right?); changed out the filter on the HVAC system, and left the rest of the three-pack in the laundry room to encourage changes when needed.

New lightbulbs were inserted in all the the sparkly clean light fixtures and ceiling fans, and I tucked a few starter packets of dishwasher detergent under the sink; a scrubbed and bleached almost-new kitchen trashcan and a few trash can liners is at the ready.

On a whim, I snagged an inexpensive plastic  pumpkin and filled it with candy (they are moving in over the weekend and I have a hunch their trick-or-treating will be pre-empted by packing-and-moving.  As a final touch I filled a small basket with some apple-scented dish soap, new sponges and dishrags and a cute Thanksgiving towel to say “Welcome Home!” 

After I finished giving the old place its spa treatment, did I wish we were the ones moving in?  It did look pretty and welcoming.  But I am very content with our new home and I don’t regret any part of our decision to find and move to a different home.

I have very high hopes for the future of the new family moving in.  I wish many blessings and joy on them as they make our old home their new home.

Happy moving in (and on),
 
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