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!

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. 🙂

Closed

mckinney-is-closed-today We got some ice last night. Many schools in my neck of the woods are closed today (my relatives, to the southeast, still have school). But look… my city, and my county, are closed today. know they mean city offices and such but I just think it’s funny that the list says the city of McKinney is closed. Ok, nevmind.

The trip to Indiana went very well. It was rather fast and furious as I thought it might be but it was a good trip overall. The drive up seemed to take forever. Daisy did wonderfully for the entire trip though which good. This means we can take her again because people liked her and she behaved.

The drive up, like I said, was a little rough. We rolled in to my cousins’ house at about 2am. There was an incident with their cat hiding under our bed which I eventually solved with a stick but otherwise that went really well. It was nice to see them for a little while and Robert was able to head off to his conference in Indianapolis the next morning. Of course, he’d had about 3 or 4 hours of sleep so I didn’t envy him that at all but he was fine with it.

After he got home we hung out some more with the cousins’, had dinner with them and then packed up the truck and headed north to my parents house. We got there in a reasonable amount of time, talked to the parents a little, walked the dog, got settled and crashed. We were both worn out.

Friday morning when we got up we discovered one of the cats had been in the room all night long, hiding in the corner. She never made a sound. She was quite hapy to get out of there! Anyway, we got up, got ready and headed over to my Grandpa’s house. He has recently moved into an assisted living facility and my Dad is cleaning out the house and woodshop/garage. My Grandpa has been a woodworker forever and he also worked with stained glass for many years. I wanted to make sure I had some good wooden toys for our eventual children as well as some stained glass. Dad offered Robert any tools he wanted/needed. So, the guys worked in the woodshop while I was going through some things in the house.

We brought home some really cute toys and puzzles that my Grandpa made as well as some nice stained glass pieces. I also found my great-grandmother’s sewing box with her scissors and some thimbles and such so I definitely brought that home. Robert and my dad filled up the back of the truck with a table saw, drill press, planer and I don’t even know what else. It was nice since they were things on the list to purchase as soon as we could and now we have them, ready to be set up in the garage. I still have t clean up, sort and box the toys up so they can be put into the attic or a closet for later.

After going through things at the house we were off to lunch. Robert thought it was funny that even though we were the guests, my Dad gave us three choices for lunch instead of letting us pick. I was fine with it since if we had tried to pick it would’ve gone on forever. He’s SO picky, my Dad. We had a nice lunch and chatted about various stuff and then headed over to see my Grandpa. He is living in a very nice place and his VA benefits will help pay for the majority of it each month so that is even better. He did say several times that it wasn’t “home” but I think he likes it enough anyway and knows it is a better place to be for him right now.

My Grandpa can be a rather mean and grouchy old man. Last time he saw my Mom he told her she was getting fat (which she didn’t appreciate at all) and last time I saw him (before this) he didn’t answer the door at his house. When I came in he told me he thought if he didn’t answer I might go away. He’s sweet like that…. Anyway, Dad and I really did not know what he was going to do or how he would behave. We had told Robert that Grandpa might say mean stuff. I was concerned that if Grandpa directed something hurtful towards me Robert would be seriously pissed off. Luckily, Grandpa was on his stunningly good behavior. He took Robert into his room and showed him all the wooden things he had made that he brought with him. Then they walked around the apartment a little and he showed Robert anything else he could find. Then… he took him on a tour of the place (telling me to stay behind and help my father). They talked a lot and he seemed to be able to hear Robert ok so that was good as well.

The visit seemed to take an eternity to me but mostly because Grandpa can’t hear anything I say. I can shout or whatever and he still can’t hear me. It’s just my tone of voice I guess. Also, Grandpa doesn’t have a lot of use for women and that has gotten a lot more pronounced as he has gotten older (he’s 87 now). So, all of his conversation was directed towards Robert and my Dad with only one or two comments directly aimed at me. I made him stand up when I left so I could give him a hug, which I think surprised him a little bit. Anyway, it was a good visit. Yesterday I wrote him a letter to let him know we enjoyed ourselves.

We stopped at my favorite apple orchard on the way home because I really needed to buy some cider. We brought three gallons back with us. 🙂 Then we went to my parents house and just relaxed. We were still just feeling wiped out. My Dad made prime rib for dinner which was, obviously yummy. He also showed Robert his shop, his furnace set up and any number of things he had done around the house. After my Mom came home and we had dinner she gave Robert a “tour” of all of her quilts, showing him different ones around the house and in her sewing room. I was proud of my parents and the amazing work that both of them do in their respective hobbies (Mom quilts and Dad machines all the parts and builds miniature engines). They both have a lot of skill.

I think we again went to bed early. Saturday morning we got up and got ready for the influx of relatives. Mom was having brunch so those that didn’t make it to the wedding (and even those that did) could come out and see us and meet Robert. It was nice. Lots of people came. Lots of people were late so “brunch” lasted until about 8pm.

We took a short break in the mid afternoon and took Daisy to the off-leash dog park so she could really play in the snow. She LOVED it. Once she figured out what to do she was tearing around runing between the two of us and diving into the snow. It was a much needed break for all of us even if it was a little chilly.

After everyone finally left we packed things into the truck so we would be ready for an early departure in the morning. We talked to my parents some more… I really wanted to just hunker down and talk to my Mom for house but… we were getting up at 4:30am so we needed to sleep.

We left by 5:30am on Sunday, drove all day and were home by 10pm Sunday night. The next day I needed to take something to my aunt’s house. I stopped and got breakfast along the way. By 8pm that night (Monday) it was obvious something was wrong… I had food poisoning and spent the next two days mostly in bed.

I am starting to catch up overall but wow, my paycheck for December is going to be really really puny if I can’t get a lot of work done in the next two weeks!

Introducing…

Daisy!

Daisy!

Daisy, our new yellow lab puppy, came home last Saturday. She has kept me busy all week! She’s a very good puppy overall and I can’t complain. I’ve never owned a dog before though, so it has taken some getting used to. I am not used to planning my day around when we will have to go outside and go potty but I am getting the hang of it.

She had a pretty awful case of fleas when I picked her up, but a trip to the vet on Monday got that cleared up. She was very lethargic and not interested in much of anything over the weekend. My Aunt thought she might have worms but it appears that the fleas were SO bad, that is what was dragging her down. Poor puppy. She’s feeling much better now. She has already managed to rip open the tail of her squirrel chew toy, she’s played with all of her toys at least once or twice (the squirrel and the kong are the favorites and the “puppy fish” nylabone and the rope are close behind).

She’s gotten used to walking on a leash, so that is good. And she seems to not mind riding in a car at all. We are taking her camping tonight and tomorrow night so hopefully she will like it. If she does well on that, she will be joining us on our trip to Indiana on Wednesday. We’ll be driving there Wednesday, Robert will speak at a conference in Indianapolis on Thursday, we will drive up to NW Indiana and see my parents and other relatives Friday and Saturday and drive home Sunday. It will be nice to go “home” as I haven’t been back since I moved here in 2005. It’s been almost four years since I’ve seen Lake Michigan and all my other favorite spots. We are both looking forward to it. My Mom is having a brunch on Saturday so some of the family that couldn’t make it to the wedding can come over and meet Robert, so I am looking forward to seeing all of them as well.

I think it will be a fast and furious trip overall, especially since we will be camping tonight and tomorrow, getting home Tuesday evening, just to repack and leave again. But, we will manage.

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