Saturday, June 20, 2015

KonMari Love Notes

My husband KonMari-ed his clothes, and we both lived through the experience!

Using the methods from Marie Kondo's book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, he went through every single piece of clothing he had, from socks and shirts to pants and pullovers. He only kept the items that spark joy. I'm trying really hard to find the joy sparking in some of the items in the Keep Pile. But there are so many items in the Toss Pile, it is clouding my tendency to complain. HE GOT RID OF SO MUCH STUFF! It's like our house went on a really successful diet, and is all ready for swimsuit season. It's prancing around now, looking all skinny and cute, not missing the pudge one little bit. (That is one common complaint about Marie Kondo, that she anthropomorphises household stuff, but I do too, so I completely get saying goodbye to inanimate objects.)

Did I have to nag and throw hissy fits to get Ernst to do this? Me nag? What exactly IS a hissy fit, anyway? All I did was put every single piece of clothing he had, from socks and shirts to pants and pullovers, in the guest room and then he sort of had to sort thru it. It was planned, really it was. He picked the day, I picked the way. It was a success and I am one hissy-fit-free woman.

He is a man of many hats.
What can I say? Please, give me something to say.

And turtlenecks, the guy could outfit an entire turtle farm if need be.

He kept what he loved...

...and tossed multiple IKEA bags of things he didn't love.

And he found his eclipse googles. Yes, my dearest has goggles for viewing solar eclipses. 
Except he can't find the dark lenses that go in them.
Until then he is forced to just look at his incredibly clean closet and his wife who never ever nags. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Iț Țuica Țeason!

According to my blog archives, a year ago, almost to the day, we (Ernst) began making plum brandy for the first time. And according to the blog posts, I was really sick with some sort of summer cold/flu thing. I don't remember that at all, but I do remember the booze making process. It's stained into my consciousness. But unlike last year's plum harvest of "bottling up the whines" I know what to expect this time.
  • A very neat and tidy process that Ernst administers like a grand science experiment, with beakers and bottles and vats and bubbling concoctions of purple glop. It's interesting, and I hardly have to lift a finger.
  • A dog who likes her liquor. She got into the orange cider this winter twice, with burps and hiccups to prove it. We must keep lids on the brew, not to keep the pests out but to keep the pet out.
  • Floor space taken up with plastic buckets and big glass bottles that make noise from air bubble contraptions on top. Making booze is noisy business - the stuff is alive.
  • The results are homemade alcohol, lots of it. Our Moldovan friends proclaimed our plum brandy (pronounced tsooeeka in Romanian) a success. They poured it into a metal spoon, lit it on fire and oohed and aahed over the color of the flame. I just know it felt like liquid fire going down and had a very high alcohol content. The plums have power.
Here we go again, our plum harvest is in full swing. There is even enough extra plum juice to make some jelly. If you stop by, prepare to be offered something purple, it may or may not make you burp and hiccup.

The plum tree is loaded this year. We are in a war with the squirrels.
We intend to win.

Our sour plum tree is producing sweeter plums this year than the regular plum tree.
It's so confusing, we hardly can keep them straight. 

Large stainless steel vats are taking over the house.
We need to create a booze making storage area in the garage.

Plum is the new black.

He is "super proofing" this, or something like that.
I don't have my terminology down.
He said don't drink it.
Oh, I won't.

I again bring up the garage storage area that's needed.

After we bottle it, we wait.
Plum brandy cannot be rushed.

Will it turn out?
Will the Moldovans approve?
Will the dog deem it burp-worthy?
We shall țee.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Sew Called Hobby Room

In my quest to clear the clutter, remove the rubbish and trash the trash, I couldn't leave out my sewing set-up. After we got rid of our bed, moved the guest room bed into our room, put a futon in the guest room and I cleaned out my clothes closet, the room was blissfully clean and clear. In fact, you could hear a pin drop, which reminded me I hadn't cleared out my sewing stuff.

Up until now, if I had a small project, I would stay in the guest room/sewing room to work on it. I used a vintage (read old and ugly) table that had a wobbly top and drawers that stuck. It was very annoying, but it held all my stuff, making it appear that I was nice and organized. Except when I tried to open one of the drawers and a pair of scissors or other sharp instrument would jam up the works. Then it was time to stick my entire arm up to the elbow inside the drawer and try to get the log jam unjammed. I'm fortunate to have all ten fingers left. Time to clear out the mess for good!

Here is the sewing table, looking all innocent and helpful.

Here it is with the nifty organizer on top.
Otherwise known as the Plastic Contraption of Extreme Messiness.

This is one of the drawers.
One of the better organized ones.

There was no other choice but to dump the whole mess onto the new futon.
Which I covered, because it's new and still on the credit card statement.

I have no idea what all this is.
None of it sparks joy, but I'm too afraid to get rid of it.
It stayed.

You can't sew without some cutting instruments, and these are my favorites.
The ones that don't cut worth beans got relegated to the garage sale.

Seam ripper seems like such a harsh word.
But a must is a must.

While it was probably unnecessary to label them BUTTONS, I did, because it made me feel so orderly.
These are all the buttons in our life.
Bye bye buttons from all the clothes long gone, you lasted longer than the clothes.

My super fancy row markers for my rag quilts.
Only the best, that's what I always say.
The numerous poke marks represent to me all the quilts they have kept in order.
Poke marks mean quilts out the door, which means profits.
Profits spark joy.

Can't crochet without these, they stayed.

Quilts without templates are not very squared up.
My well-used templates are in for the long run.

Once I organized everything, I put it all in a pretty floral box, and there it stays. The sewing machine is in the closet, and I'm figuring out what to do next. Either get a new table (I'm eyeing a super cool one at IKEA that would be very flexible) or just keep things they way they are and sew on the kitchen table or the back patio in nice weather. I love the freedom of choosing, and the sticking drawers that annoyed me are gone and out of here. I forgot I had an extra sewing machine in the attic (!) and I got a good price at the garage sale. A lot of the other sewing stuff sold, and what didn't got hauled off to Goodwill.

Miss Sticky Drawers was mortified to end up in the free pile.
No one took her, so she too got hauled away to Goodwill.
I did not shed a tear...

...because I've got some very important projects to concentrate on.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Joy Sparkage

If we didn't have such a variety of stuff, and if we lived in an apartment, and if I had a huge chunk of time on my hands and if I could just stop everything, I would love to clear out the clutter just as suggested in Marie Kondo's brilliant book. Her advice is to just get in there and tackle all your stuff in one giant huge binge clean and you'll never have to do it again. She suggests getting it all done in one barely-get-out-of-your-pajamas, eat-take-out-for-days, don't-even-think-of-stopping-by-my-house-or-I'll-have-to-reprogram-your-memory sort of session.

The lovely author has never seen our attic space above the garage. Most things up there are in opaque black garbage bags and are unidentifiable without opening each one and peeking inside. And I know she would not want to walk past the rat traps out in the garden shed, which may or may not be baited and ready to spring. We are not hoarders, we really aren't. We just have a lot of interests. The RBC tools alone are enough for a day or so.

But, I wish I could. Because this method works and it is amazing. Right now I seem to be at a bit of a stand still. Our garage is getting pretty near crammed full, ready for our yard sale. That means key categories are being blocked - I see stuff I want to get to, but since gravity defeats me, I can't flutter past the "treasures" to reach them. Until I have room to groove, I can't start on any of the major garagy type things like sports stuff, cleaning stuff, more sports stuff and then there is all that sports stuff. And we can't forget the category - Really Gross Rags That Are Ready To Self-Combust. That will be a whole day right there. But here are a few of my favorite categories, not areas, I've finished this week.

First, a very honorable nod of respect to the book of tidying. This is not a fist pump book, but there were lots of inner fist pumps going on inside me these last few weeks.

Enough towels to run a small Bed and Breakfast, but we don't, so only the joy sparking ones stayed.

My fabric stash. There was some weird stuff in there.

Don't try to hide, I will find you.

The joyful pieces are now rolled up so I can see them! 

Goodbye weird pieces that brought no sparks, your forever home is not here.
I learned I don't like either giant amounts of fabric or little bitty scraps. They have to be Mama Bear sized.

Onward to the beauty and health supplies.
Um, you're not working for us. Meet Mr. Garbage Bag.

We're just so naturally beautiful and genetically healthy, we need so little.
Or maybe we're just lazy and we stick to the basics?

This is an example of what area cleaning does versus category organizing
I just "organized" this a few months ago.
It's a mess again.
Junk Drawer, I have plans for you. Big plans. I don't know what yet, but you will spark joy someday.

The neighborhood rooster didn't spark joy for Molly, so she let it move on. Or float away. We hope poultry was just a category of one.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tidying up - it's changing my life

Recently I heard from a friend about a book that she said completely changed the way she viewed her stuff. She went through her whole house and got rid of everything that didn't "spark joy." I do that all the time, I thought. I'm always getting rid of stuff at the Goodwill drop-off around the corner from us. I love getting rid of stuff, it's so liberating!

Oh, what an amateur I was. Because even though I thought I was Little Miss Organized, I still on a regular basic could not find simple stuff in my own home. Like my purse. My keys. The tape, or rather any one of the six or seven rolls of tape that were being held hostage by the drawers and cabinets in our home. Let's see, what other things do I have trouble finding? Usually it's the thing I really need, and while I'm looking for that item, I come across other missing yet important things, which I don't have time to deal with at the moment because I'm looking for the thing I cannot find. And then I want to pull my hair out, but I wouldn't be able to find the super glue to put it back in. The super glue is playing hide and seek with the tape, those silly guys.

Enter The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. Another friend, a Little Miss Organized in her own right who also struggles with super glue moments, loaned me the book. How can this be any different from all the self-help books that tell you all the same things? The ones that say:

  • Organize a little every day
  • Organize one area at a time
  • The reason you're not organized is because you don't have all your stuff in the right containers
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I've always done it that way. It doesn't work. I still can't find the tape. Because the tape doesn't have a home. That's right, we've had homeless tape. Or maybe because the tape had too many homes. 

If you read the book, and you really should because the author is pathetically adorable, you'll see the wisdom and beauty of doing it this way:

  • Pick a category of stuff
  • Any category of stuff
  • Pull out every item of this in your home, from every nook and cranny you can think of. Of course for things like tape, you may need to wait for the hide and seek game to end.
  • So start with stuff you know where the majority of it is
  • Pile it all together
  • Look at it
  • Cry
  • Then take every item, pick it up and ask if the item "sparks joy"
  • If it "sparks joy" keep it
  • Keep all the category in one place - its home
It's not about getting rid of stuff, it's about keeping the stuff you love. That's it. Keep the stuff you love. And give it a home.

Here is what happened with my glassware. (I failed to take a before photo).

I took every last piece of glassware out of our cabinets and put them on the kitchen table, the floor and the counter tops. Vases, glasses, dishes, bowls, everything. Yikes! Was I running a floral shop? How many vases does a person who can't arrange flowers need? Certainly not ten vases! And because I couldn't reach my arm into our Scary Cabinet of Glass, I wasn't using the ones we love! How dumb is that? Through all this moving around of breakable items, I only dropped one thing, a little glass candle holder. At this point our dog Molly tiptoed into the kitchen, gently picked up her stuffed moose toy and gently tiptoed out. I think she expected me to start throwing glassware in frustration, but there was no frustration - just a bit of joy sparking and lots of walks out to the yard sale pile in the garage.

Ernst was part of the process and confesses that when you see the whole lot of it all at once, it's easy to see what you want and what you don't need anymore. It was liberating. There is now room to see what we have, and we love what we have. Simple. While the book gets a bit weird in parts (I'm not going to start talking to my shoes) it is a simple and easy read. There was one item, however, I did have to talk to. Mrs. Duck was a wedding present. She was cute and she held sugar. She served us well. She used to spark big time joy. But the couple who gave us Mrs. Duck is no more, they both died of dementia. I got sad every time I saw Mrs. Duck and she was relegated to the back of the Scary Cabinet of Glass. She deserves better. She will be sold at our garage sale. I said my goodbyes, and I got all choked up over that little ceramic duck. I was in the garage, talking to a duck, and that was OK. That's what this book will do for you. This is what it did for me.

Introducing the Not Scary...


...of JOY!
Last night at a party at our house, a little guest came up and handed me a bouquet of flowers. After thanking him, I floated into the house, reached into our glassware collection, and with room around each item to see what was there, I grabbed the perfect size to fit the flowers. No sighing, no frustration, no breakage.  

I still can't arrange them, but I found the perfect vase! Joy.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A cabaña, but not mañana

The first rule of home ownership should be "First, do no harm." The original owner of our house never learned the rule, and his decisions are just a joy to discover. One brilliant thing he did was build a pool house several decades back that was lower than the pool. When it rained, the pool house pooled, but not in a refreshing way. Besides water coming up from below, the roof leaked, big time. And that's why it has had an ugly tarp over it since we moved in. And that's why I don't have many before pictures - the ugly mess usually got cropped out of all my photos. The pool house was featured often on social media in the photos of friends, but friends don't make friends crop.

This spring it was time to tackle the mess. The roof came off first, or shall I say roofs. There were four layers of roofing material, and they all leaked. Then the siding came down, in preparation for the walls coming down, in preparation for the foundation being raised. 

That was when the Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm Moment occurred. 

Hmm, those redwoods are sort of the highlight of the yard. Hmm, they look really great when not obscured by a leaky, chipped paint, sunken pool house covered with a big ugly shredding tarp. (Why do I not have a photo of that??)

Wow, without walls they look even better. Hmm.

Hmm, should we just not rebuild it? But where will people, you know, take care of business?

But it looks so good NOT there. Hmm.

Once the tornado is cleaned up, the redwoods will just shine!

But really, people need somewhere to, you know, do their business. We can't just build an outhouse. Hmm.

If we don't call it an outhouse, but name it The Cabaña, we could rebuild something much much smaller, much much cuter, with just enough room to take care of business.

Hmm. What's that leaking under the sewer line? Hmm. Mr. First Homeowner of the Really Bad Decisions strikes again! To be continued...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rub a dub dub, I made soap in a tub

I have very talented and resourceful friends who make gorgeous soap. Or is it more proper to say they make soaps? Cucumber, lemon, lavender, rose - these bars look good enough to eat. And they're almost too pretty to use, but I do. As much as I enjoy these handmade bars of delight, I've never once been tempted to try my hand at soap making. Until today.

My soap making adventure didn't involve anything exotic, no lovely smells, no essential oils, no fancy molds or pretty wrappings. I made laundry soap, because I'm a practical kind of girl and heaven knows you can't just go out and buy laundry soap. Well, yes you can, but the point is I made soap. Well, really it was more like buying a bunch of different soap-like products and mixing them together, but without me they would never have mixed themselves up and made their way into the Tofurkey roaster. 

When we got our front loading washing machine, I felt pretty stinking good about all the water we were saving. And when I hang out our clothes on the line, I feel pretty stinking good about all the electricity we are saving. But I've been noticing lately our clothes have been kind of stinking, and not in a good way. Our water saving washing machine just doesn't use enough water. I have stood there and watched it. I have stood there and yelled at it to fill up with more water. (I have learned that the permanent press cycle uses the most water, more than the heavy load cycle, which makes no sense.) How could I get our machine to clean clothes better? I did what any person who wants answers does, I Googled "How to make your clothes stop stinking if you use a front loading washer and you hang out on the line." Google searches love when you're really succinct like that. I found a recipe for making laundry soap that is supposed to get the job done without any yelling. Here it is, because you also may have too much stinking time on your hands and may want to feel super crafty while impressing absolutely no one.

First buy a box of Borax. It's on the laundry aisle. I didn't know it existed, but trust me, it was right there the on the shelf at Raleys. Subsequent searches on Pinterest have poo-poo-ed using Borax, but I bet they never had laundry that smelled of poo-poo.

Now buy a box, a big box, of baking soda. Don't walk to the baking section of the store, because that's where the little boxes of baking soda are. The big boxes of baking soda are near the borax. Trust me on this one. Be sure to not get a big box of baking powder, because you can't trust that stuff.

Next, buy a big box of super washing soda. Not just washing soda, it has to be super washing soda. Again with the trust thing, it's on the same aisle as the borax and the big box of baking soda. Look for the arm. Then look for the hammer. They will be together, ready to handle whatever stink you throw at them.

Now you can leave the laundry aisle and head to the personal soap aisle. Look down where the weird soap is, not eye level at the razzle dazzle kind. You can buy Kirk's Castile soap, or Fels Naptha (which really needs a better PR department) or some other kind of soap your ancestors used while washing clothes down by the river. Grate it into the Tofurkey roaster. Be sure to use a grater that is old enough to remember the Hoover Administration. 

There it is, the recipe for making your own stinking laundry soap. Oh yes, be sure to mix it all up really well, that's the part that qualifies you as a super crafty person who makes their own soap. Your laundry will smell so good, you'll want to run out into the street and ask perfect strangers if your towels are not indeed April fresh.