Spring Cleaning, Day 2 – The Living Room

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Day 2 of the Spring Cleaning Party focuses on the living room, family room or wherever the family spends the majority of their time. Now, honestly, that might be my office but I’m saving that monumental task for the day everyone else tackles kids rooms (which we don’t have). Daisy woke me up at about 6:45 begging to go outside – even though Robert was in his office wondering why she hadn’t wanted to go out yet. I took her out, came back inside and considered staying awake and getting started. But, I decided a little more sleep might not hurt. 😉

I got up, made coffee and started pulling everything out of the living room. I know for some families this is going to be a huge undertaking. Luckily, our living room is pretty sparse so it wasn’t awful. There are no bookshelves, which helped. All my before pictures look pretty clean due to the clean sweep on Day 1 but I did get into all the drawers and sort things out.

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This is all the stuff that came out of the living room. The coffee table is a big rectangle with a drawer that pulls out from both sides. The end tables both have drawers and then the entertainment center had stuff in it too. That white laundry basket is completely full of DVDs. It covered the dining room table but it wasn’t packed init was definitely doable in one day for me.

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This is my before picture which I’m sure will annoy some of you since it looks completely clean. I’m telling you, before we decluttered, that coffee table was covered in magazines, DVDs, Wii stuff, books and more. The clean sweep did wonders for my house. This view will be important later though, I promise.

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I found these big piles of magazines in the coffee table drawer. They obviously got shoved in there several times in an effort to “clean up” before company came over. Unfortunately they were mostly all mine too. What can I say. I’m a writer. I like to read… wait til you see the bookshelf in my office. It’s scary!

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I kept two cooking magazines to go through and pull out recipes for the recipe file, a few that I haven’t read that will go on the to be read pile (and then to the recycling bin when they are done) and then, I went through a lot of Texas highways and Birds and Blooms my Grandma had given me and pulled out the full page photo pages. I use the pages to make envelopes for the handmade cards I make. I had been hanging on to the magazines for that reason. It is a much smaller pile now that I pulled those pages, and put them in a folder with my craft stuff. All the other magazines went into the recycling.

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We had some rather unfortunate puppy accident stains on the carpet. (Robert is going to be unhappy if he knows I posted this one – just keeping it real!) I used the heavy duty carpet cleaner recipe from the SimpleMom eBook. Whoa.

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That was after letting it sit on the stain for several hours (salt, vinegar and borax). Several hours after letting it sit and then vacuuming I can see the outline of the stain again though, so it may need another treatment or two to really get it all out, I’m not sure. I need to go buy a gallon of vinegar before I do any more treatments though since I’m out.

All in all, the living room is good. Things are organized, purged a little and it feels calm and clean. Oh, and I cleaned the windows which hasn’t been done in at least 2 years. They look so much better. Wow! And if you need to clean your screens?

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Put them in the shower and spray them down. It worked really well for me! The only thing that is left to be done is for Robert to go through the huge pile of VHS tapes. I am going to ask him to try and contain it to the wooden box with the duck on it. So they are put away and out of the way since it won’t be something we would use very much if at all. Most of them are EMS and Firefighter training stuff so I am just asking him to hopefully pare down some. So, ready for the after shot?

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I rearranged the furniture too. The couch wasn’t working where it was so it needed it. And even though there were only two magazines and one book that were ready for the coffee table, I couldn’t bring myself to put them out there. It looked too nice all clean and clear. I also worked on integrating some of our knick knacks on the mantle. I have Jim Shore angels, Robert has ducks. There were ducks in the guest room, ducks in one bathroom and ducks in the living room. I brought all the ducks into the living room. Two on the mantle, two on each end table. If I ask him if he wants to keep the ducks, he will automatically assume that I don’t like them, so I am working on figuring out a way to ask the right way. Plus, I don’t want everything to be totally minimalist.What do you think about the angels and ducks together?

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In case you’re wondering, the fireplace is directly behind the couch. There is no good way to arrange the living room it seems. One wall is the fireplace, one wall has three windows, one wall had french doors into Robert’s office and the entryway. The only blank wall has the TV on it. To face the TV, you have to have your back to the fireplace. Someday we hope to remodel the garage into a media room and have a formal living room which will fix it, but until then, we just kind of ignore the fireplace.

I’m a day ahead on this since I started on Sunday. I spent, I think, three hours in the morning and about two hours in the evening to get it all done. I went to my new office for a few hours in the middle and had dinner, called my Mom (she thought the Spring Cleaning Party sounded good but needed to know what an eBook was) and played with the dog a bit. The living room is supposed to be Days 2 and 3 but obviously, for me it was only Day 2. Tomorrow I need to spend some time working (I work from home) and I will either tackle my craft area in the dining room or do one section of my home office. I think my office will take two full days so I will be breaking it up here and there throughout my spring cleaning.

Ready for a puppy picture? Daisy definitely wanted to be outside playing today instead of inside where the mean old vacuum cleaner was. She hates the vacuum, we’re not sure why. She doesn’t mind the blender or anything else loud.

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Spring Cleaning, Day 1

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I decided to join the Spring Cleaning Party, hosted by SimpleMom and I can already say, I’m loving it! I purchased the eBook so I can more easily prepare each evening for the next day’s tasks and also have the time/ability to give Robert a head’s up of what will be going on. Day One is really simple. You have to go through your house two times. The first time, you pick up trash (and in our case, recycling galore) and the second time you make quick decisions on some of the little clutter-y stuff that visible. I actually decided to start a day early so that Robert would be available to help go through some of that clutter-y stuff that belongs to him instead of presenting him with a big basket of stuff to go through at the end of the day. Also (yay!) I’m starting a part time job today so I wanted to have a jump on things. So, the details. We worked on this on and off all day long. We stopped occasionally to watch TV, eat lunch, work on dinner prep and we even stopped to take an hour long nap because neither of us went to bed at a decent time last night. So, it could be done in a few hours I think. We have decided from the start that we are each responsible for our own home offices, so those will be done in bits and pieces throughout the week. And the guest room is not being touched at the moment because it has the emergency preparedness kit spread out all over. We have ordered some things to add to the kit so we don’t want to pack it all up, put it away, only to have to bring it back out in two days to reorganize it. So, those few rooms, we didn’t touch too much so far.

I did not take tons of “before” pictures because honestly, I was pretty embarrassed by the state of my house. Here is one of my desk in my office before I did anything to it. Imagine a similar state on oh, pretty much every horizontal surface in our house. I’m not even kidding! I meant to take one of the dining room table but it was almost done before I remembered!

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That is the area just to the right of my keyboard and such on the desk. It was obviously getting very disorganized. The coffee table in the living room was like this, the dining room table, Robert’s desk, portions of the kitchen counters. It was really really bad, to the point where I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by it and not really having a good plan on how to start. That’s why I bought the eBook. At first I thought, well that’s kind of silly, like I can’t figure out how to clean the house. Well, I found out by having it, it gives me a place to start and some clear instructions on what to do. I’m sure as I go along I’ll adapt lots of things and tweak things, but the thing that really helped me was just having a place to start. Want to see my desk later?

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It’s by no means perfect, I still need to find a place for some of those notepads but it’s about 99 times more calming and stress free to look at, don’t you think? And ALL of the rooms (except the guest bedroom) had a similar treatment. That’s one tiny space in my house but my whole house is like this. It feels really good just to sit and look around. I feel calm, I feel happy and wow, do I feel energized. I am completely shocked by the feeling too. I knew the clutter was bugging me but I had no idea how much. I am so glad I decided to do this. Robert agrees. It just feels better in our house. There is still dog hair on the sofa and a stack of books in the hallway that I need to sort through but overall the house just feels more calm. It’s wonderful. I’m totally psyched to do the rest of the job now. And check this out.. we had 2 bags of trash, just regular kitchen trash bag sized and a TON of recycling.

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We are a magnet for paper and cardboard it seems. Before I broke all the boxes down, they were in a stack taller than me! The best part is that we already ran them down to the drop off bin so even the recycling bins are empty. Well, except for the celebratory beers we had with dinner! Day One was a huge success. Did anyone else feel so completely happy once it was done? Maybe it is from the sheer amount of clutter/paper/stuff we had allowed to build up around us but it has really been motivating to get each room cleared out.

And now, to end with a puppy picture.  Daisy likes to run through the hose when I am watering the garden. She was just a little soaked here!

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First Camping Trip 2009

We finally took the camper out last weekend. And it has taken me a week to share it. I know. Craziness. The plan was to camp somewhere near Gainesville, Texas since we wanted to go to Lavender Ridge Farm and pick strawberries on Saturday. All of the Texas State Parks we called were already booked (this is a problem we have a lot). So, we ended up going up to Lake Murray State Park in Marietta, Oklahoma which was about 45 minutes further north of Gainseville. They have something like 400 sites so they usually have plenty of room. I took a laid back approach to packing the camper. Something like “Hmmm, I see sheets and pillows and blankets. Here’s the food. Ok, if it’s not in here we don’t need it that much for just two nights!” It really reduced my stress level and, it actually worked. We had everything we needed with no problems.

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We really enjoyed the state park. It was a nice, level site, easy to get the camper into and only $18 per night. Daisy did wonderfully and even when we let her off leash at the camp site she stayed relatively close to us and didn’t wander off. I think we made it in around 8pm on Friday night. Saturday morning we headed up to Gainseville to pick some strawberries. Unfortunately there were not all that many to pick and we only ended up with about a third of a bucket full. Enough for one round of shortcake. Well, better than nothing and we did have a nice time so it wasn’t a loss or anything.

We headed into downtown Gainseville after that. They have a nice square, similar to what we have at home. There are lots of cute little shops and restaruants. We put Daisy on the leash and she and Robert walked and window shopped while I browsed inside the stores. I didn’t buy much. I found a blown glass firetruck Christmas ornament so I had to get it. We have several fire fighters, fire helmets and even fire boots, but no firetrucks so obviously it needed to come home with us! The other place I had to do a little shopping was Pass Time Fabrics, a quilt shop. I found a few cute little bits of fabric in the clearance area, a Texas print I’ve been looking for and the most tiny English Paper Piecing hexagons. They are extremely cute and very tiny. Awesome!

A little trail near our campsite

A little trail near our campsite

After our wanderings we went back to the campground to just relax. Robert needed some serious decompression time and he got it so that was very very good. We took Daisy on a little bit of a hike down to the lake, which she was scared of (what kind of Lab is scared of water?!) and Robert made some delicious chicken and rice in the dutch oven for dinner. We went to bed early and slept late both days – Robert because he was worn out and me, well, I’m a champion sleeper. I could sleep 10 hours every night with no problem and feel pretty good about it!

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It was the inagural trip for the camping quilt I made on my quilting retreat in Indiana. It fit the bed really well, looks good in the camper and was nice and warm and snuggly. It’s also pretty sturdy which is good. Since the best place for Daisy to be out of the way in the camper is for her to lay on the bed, whatever blanket we use gets covered in dog hair. I wanted something I could wash after most of the trips without a problem. The quilt is simply squares of denim and flannel but on the denim squares I am sewing patches that we have gotten from places we have camped or visited on camping trips. The patches are inexpensive souvenirs and the blanket is useful in the camper so it is a nice way to combine functionality with some sentimentality. We had a great weekend and when we came home the garden was looking great so that was even better. I’ll write more about the garden this week because it is really going to town.

Here’s your puppy picture for the day.The focus is less than perfect, but this is Daisy’s little spot in the camper. And she’s wearing her red traveling dress (her harness). Her travel bowls are Fiesta, spoiled dog!

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More Crafty Goodness

It is one of those weeks when things are getting done and checkmarks are being put in boxes. I visited the McKinney Quilters guild for the first time last night. I’ve been meaning to go for quite awhile. It was a pretty good group. I am interested to see what the upcoming months will bring since I signed up to be a member. I am used to the format we had at Dunes country Quilters, where someone would present a tutorial basically and give us the basics to get started, then we would go home and work on it. My Mom, ever the over achiever, works to get it done each month and take it to the next meeting. Anyway, between challenges and tutorials it was an ongoing source of new ideas and projects. This group has a sit n sew night, round robin quilts and various other things going on that sound interesting. Also, I won a pair of tickets to the Arlington Quilt Show which I was already planning on going to. Sweet. Of course now I need to find someone to go with me. I could probably convince Robert but I want to wait and take him to the big Dallas show since there will be more quilts and more to see. I’m guessing he’s good for maybe one quilt show each year. The speaker last night makes portrait quilts. Impressive stuff.

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While I was off at quilt guild Robert went grocery shopping and came home with groceries and these beautiful lilies. Why? Just because he’s very sweet. Bonus – they were grown in Texas.

Today I snapped some photos of some swap stuff I’ve made recently. So, if you’re Anita, stop reading or you won’t be surprised when your package arrives!

We were supposed to make one kitchen towel and two potholders, so this is what I came up with.

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Two potholders for a red and cream kitchen. Notice the Texas fabric in the one on the right. My swap buddy is from Wales (as in UK) so I thought adding a bit of Texas would be fun.  The back of each potholder is plain linen that matches the kitchen towel.

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This towel is linen with a red zig zag stitch around the edges. The flowers are English paper piecing with hexagons. I have no desire to make lots of EPP flowers and sew them to each other but I do love to make them and applique them to things!

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I also made a set of 20 recipe cards with tabbed dividers. It seemed to go with the gift and I already had all the supplies on hand so it was a pretty quick project. It really didn’t photograph well unfortunately. The recipe cards all look like the one in the front, though in different ink colors. The dividers ar2 3/4 inches wide with the tabbed tops with different  categories. Now I just need to pick one recipe, convert it into metrics and write it on one of the cards. I am also including some of my favorite blueberry tea and some Texas honey. I had other ideas of treats to include but beef brisket is too heavy and chips and salsa are too fragile. I thought tea with honey would be a universally good choice and since it is Texas honey it’s something she won’t be able to find in her local shop.

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I think a cute dog picture is a good way to end every post, don’t you?

Just call us the Busy Bees

There is just so much going on sometimes. Daisy dog got spayed on Monday. She slept most of yesterday but today she is ready to go. I think we will have to take a walk later to burn off some energy.

I was pretty bummed during the last week of March to find out I wouldn’t be writing for Green Daily anymore. It looks like they cut the staff down to only 2 bloggers. Ouch. As usual, the bad news was pretty easy to turn into a new opportunity though. I am working with a company called Grow and Make and writing some green living guides and articles which is really fun. And, the articles are longer so I can dig into topics more which I am enjoying. The other nice thing is that there is a set schedule. I need to write x number of posts per week/month and I get paid a flat fee. I like that. Sometimes too much freedom makes me lazy since I figure I can do it later, etc. So, I am writing for them. I am also working on some articles for the BootsnAll travel site. I met a bunch of people that write and edit for them at South By Southwest. Speaking of which, I need to get back to work on my article. I definitely need to get better at time management for myself. It is difficult to work on the internet so much since there are some many things that can be distracting so quickly.

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On Saturday night I broke the clothesline. Argh! The clothes were not quite dry so I left then out, thinking I would bring them in before I went to bed (pretty common practice here). Before I went to bed it started raining. Now, this has happened before and we’ve just left the clothes out on the line so they would have a chance to dry in the morning. It hasn’t been a big deal. Of course, we hadn’t done it when there were heavy thunderstorms before. The clothes got wetter and wetter and heavier and heavier until finally the arm bent. I guess the upside is I can use at least one side of it until we either fix it or get a new one so that is good. I wasn’t looking forward to jumping up the electric bill this month by using the dryer a lot.

On Sunday we decided to stay home from the family brunch. We just really needed some time together at home. Robert continues to be crazy busy at work and doing fire department stuff and we needed time to be together, work together and just reconnect. Some weeks two or three nights involve him coming home from work, eating dinner, changing into his fire department uniform and leaving again. Other nights he comes home, eats dinner, watches something on TV and can barely stay awake. On the weekends it is really great to have time working together at home and talking. It helps him to relax and unwind and it really helps me to feel reconnected to him.

I recently made a list of things that needed to be done at home that I needed help with. On Sunday we picked one and got to work on it. Not surprisingly the first thing my husband chose to do was to update and organize the disaster kit. He has a master’s degree in emergency preparedness so of course we are prepared at home. Our time on Sunday was mainly spent going through everything and pulling out expired things, brainstorming about what needed to be added for myself and Daisy and then a trip to Walmart to pick up replacements for expired things and other things we decided to add. Robert made the original kit and list several years ago so he needed to update some of the things he needed or didn’t need as well.

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Other time was spent on the garden and the yard. Robert smoked a beef brisket on Sunday afternoon so we were outside most of the afternoon so he could keep a general eye on it. The photo is one of the rows of peas in the garden. The peas are doing wonderfully. The rest of the garden just seems to be waiting for it to get warm. It’s still a bit cool overall. Usually spring in Texas seems like it lasts for a week and then it’s hot and in the 80s and even 90s by the time May hits. Obviously it’s not May yet but we do seem to be having more spring than usual.

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The Indian Hawthorn bushes in the front of the house have finally bloomed. We have been waiting for them for a few weeks now. They always look pretty when they bloom.

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These are the annuals I planted last spring. They never really went away all winter and now that spring is here they have gotten much bigger. I can’t remember what they are, but they sure do look good so I’m not complaining! My Aunt tells me this is not an uncommon thing for the annuals to just keep going for a few years. Nice! We are working on finding good perennials for most of the spaces in  the landscaping beds that need something. Drought tolerant perennials too so they will look good even if we don’t water the heck out of them. We definitely like the idea of low maintenance landscaping!

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The other thing growing really well so far is the lettuces. I have a little lettuce garden in the front, planted in two livestock troughs. The lettuce seems to  be really happy there and I think in a week or two we will be eating a LOT of salad. The big plant to the left is some spinach that survived the winter that we have been picking off lately. It’s flowered and everything now though so  think I will cut it  completely back and see what it does.

I have been cooking a lot, sewing some (not as much as I want to), trying to get the house cleaned up and decluttered and working, working, working. I stumbled across a blog the other day that quoted a Bible verse and I wanted to look it up in Message Bible and see what that version said. I stumbled across something else I had underlined nearby and I liked it so much I printed it up in a large font so I could put it on the wall in my office.

“Pursue a righteous life – a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith.”1 Timothy 6:11-12

Isn’t that great? A life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness and courtesy… That sounds about perfect to me!

My How She Has Grown, and updates

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The little puppy I brought home in November has almost doubled in weight, grown taller and turned into a mighty fine dog. She is calm and relaxed most of the time, she is learning well in obedience classes and, best of all, is very good at going out in the yard and  being off her leash without running off.

Lots of things are coming up for me. I will be going up to Indiana for a family quilting retreat. Yes, we have created our own retreat. Shortly after that I will be going to the SXSW interactive Festival in Austin. I feel a bit nervous about that one… as if all my geeky online friends will find out that I’m really not so geeky after all!

I’m having a dreadfully difficult time getting things done lately. My brain is slow to percolate ideas and put words together into sentences when I am writing and it is getting very frustrating. Sure, I can write stuff, but frequently I write something, read it back and it is so utterly boring there is no way it will work.  My creativity, it seems, has left the building for the moment. I hope it comes back soon.

I am enjoying participating in Paperback Swap lately but I fear I am using it as a way to avoid going out to find friends close by, at least for the moment. There is a local book club that meets through the group but they meet up an hour from where I live and the two books they have read so far seem less than appealing to me. So, on the one hand I’d like to be social. On the other, a book I’d not pick up on my own and an hours drive, not so much…

The wood stove has been working out wonderfully for the most part. We really need to install the second one to keep the bedrooms and my office warm. We have been out to cut firewood a few times as well and we’ve actually had fun doing it together. We took Daisy the first time and she played in and around a pond with another dog. She was filthy but really happy, so, I didn’t mind giving her a bath. We are hoping to get a hydraulic, hand operated wood splitter soon. It just uses hydraulics and manpower to operate so that seems good.

Mid-week mini vacation

Robert had some things to do in Austin yesterday so we headed off together on Tuesday night for a little midweek getaway. It was very nice. We talk about anything and everything in the car when we are traveling and it was nice to talk about some things that are coming up for us, our hopes and dreams and plans for the future, thing we need to work on at home and any number of other things.

While in Austin we went to a place called Flip Happy Crepes where you can get sweet or savory crepes from a kitchen in an airstream trailer and you can eat them at a mish-mosh of picnic tables, folding chairs and live oak trees. The crepes were tasty, the weather was amazing (high 70s and sunny) and it was just a very nice thing overall. We also stopped in to REI and the gigantic Whole Foods with all the bells and whistles.

We next stopped by the capitol building as I had mentioned I had never seen it before (our last true trip to Austin I broke my ankle so we didn’t see so much!) and we tagged along on a tour for a few minutes and then looked around ourselves for a little bit.

Robert did his businessy things, and then we had dinner by the river and the Congress Ave. bridge. It was really a nice time of being together. On the way home we stopped to pick up the puppy from my Aunt’s house… she is still worn out from playing with the other dogs.

I have been lacking in my passion for my job, or my work ethic or something lately and have much more enjoyed things like hanging laundry  out to dry and sewing. I am going to make a concentrated effort for the rest of the month to balance the work and the housework a bit better so that equal amounts get done. Or, even so more work gets done and the housework is just kept up with. In November, my fingers were on fire and I posted so much it was crazy. I need to grab that back and run with it.

And so, I’m off to work. 🙂