More Tidying.

Brenda's Kitchen

When we moved in this November, it was a bit rushed. We succeeded moving in before snow started stacking up around our Airstream. I got things unpacked and mostly organized, enough to get Christmas going. It’s not only until now that I’m really starting to solidify homes for items. I’ve spent time in the kitchen this past week (which is smaller than our last) deciding what needs to be in the immediate vicinity. I have overflow storage down the hall in the laundry room for the popcorn machine, ice cream maker, and a few other things I really do use, but not weekly. I’ve utilized our canning jars and label maker and a little Konmari folding for napkins too. So, this kitchen is settling in nicely and just feeling better.

Also, I just wanted to mention that we decided against a dishwasher for our plan. With the open shelving up top, we needed all the space below for food and utensil storage. We have one large sink which fills with dishes so quickly it can make my head spin. Some times I curse the decision, but more often I don’t. I grew up drying dishes that my sister washed every night. Now Dear Husband washes while I dry or the boys dry. I’ve never owned a dishwasher that worked amazingly anyways. We did put an outlet and have a spot for it if we do want one, but now, we don’t.

Inspired Writer.


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We saw the Goosebumps movie last week. We all loved it. Little Fella is the one who discovered the trailer a few weeks ago. He showed me the trailer, which was darn funny, we got it from the library and it didn’t disappoint. We are working a bit backwards here because we haven’t read any Goosebumps books. Little Fella has now started reading the graphic novels at night. (Yikes, I would NEVER have been able to read scary books before bed as a child, I don’t care how tame they are.) He’s loving those.

The next step? To write his own, but of course. He grabbed a stack of fresh paper and decided he’s got a tale to tell. (We won’t get into the use of “Goosebumps” in his title, I’ll hold off on that lesson for now.) He’ll sit at the table and impressively print with a steady hand. Then he’ll ask if I’d like to read any, which I of course do. Sometimes he’ll find me if he’s stuck. We’ll talk out what options the characters have and he’ll dash away to record his next section. He’s got a full-page and a half done so far. (He’s excited it will be his first non-illustrated book, he’s moving on from his illustrated superhero books. Sigh.) Anyhow, it’s very fulfilling to see him enjoy reading, writing, and sharing his own (R.L. Stine inspired) ideas.

Soon.

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Things have been downright crazy since Halloween. Well, the night before Halloween.

My son tripped the Friday night (before Halloween) in the yard and incurred a small eye injury. He’s recovering so well and is his chipper self again, something we all are super happy about. During this whole diagnosis and healing process, Dear Husband relocated jobs (closer, yay) and we decided to go on with a small construction project in the house. To squeeze more in, I ended up sick myself, which has now worked its way through the household (save for my son who had the injury, phew poor kid could use a break). A whole lotta toast getting eaten around here.

Truthfully, the past two weeks have both dragged on and flew by at the exact same time.

And participating in anything Martinmas was laughable. There was no way we’d be able to finish and light our lanterns… even if we remembered. I guess I should have finished them in October when I started them, instead of shelf them with “so much time left to work on them.” Soon though. Soon. I’ve been working on them little by little and we hope to use them soon.

Getting My Ducks in a Row.

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Listening to that audio book a few weekends ago really gave me some inspiration, help, and an attitude shift. While my tidying project is large, I’m energized by my steady progress. I really thought storing items on the floor in baskets was a good idea. I used to think counters were for easy access to heavily used kitchen tools (not so, says the author, that stuff belongs in cabinets) or that keeping a book around for just one recipe was wise.

Well, anyhow, I spend a little time each day truly sorting through our spaces and owned goods. All of our school books and supplies easily fit on three shelves in the kitchen. Our first aid drawer is killer! (Wrong adjective?) I even have displayed some treasures I never thought I had room for. My little farmer girl fits so well with my son’s log cabin. Most importantly, I’m learning how to keep things this way, it’s working in our closets and drawers so far. It’s been a fabulous summer project, as the sweltering temperatures here have pushed us indoors. Inside feels fresh, expansive, and new.

Well, of course, the cleaned out bits do. That closet! Truly! Look at that! Phew, well it’s next on the list.

Tidy Up.

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Friday I received a library email notice that my audiobook loan was ready. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing played on the computer as we dilly-dallyed around the living room. Tidying is a lesson we could all benefit from, and so I was happy as we all listened to the reader describe the author’s obsession with tidying as a child, her ability to help her clients, and finally, her approach.

Friday night a fire was lit. As you can tell by the photos above, I’m inspired. I’m happy her program starts with clothes first. That’s something I am pretty good at. But, I did learn something fabulous. It’s this. How to fold and put items into drawers. I always stack clothes, and they always slide off. My poor youngest son literally needs a shoehorn to jam his fresh clothes in. It’s a poor program. She recommends folding smaller and filing them in as shown. How fabulous is that? Not only can we fit everything better, but oh my goodness, we can pick the item we want very easily! We can SEE what we have.

I spent a lot of time, a lot of time, a lot lot lot of time this weekend sorting, refolding, and stacking clothes, but I’m very proud of the progress. I tore through our bedroom closet, much to my husband’s dismay, and I carried the boys’ dresser drawers to the living room while my oldest son watched the Indy Car race. I chatted with him about the race and tidied away. Cheerfully I’d hold a drawer in front of the boys, “See, isn’t this amazing? Doesn’t this look so great! You can find your things!” and so on.

The boys are doing a very good job themselves too. I had them sort through their pile of stuffed toys and a basket of animal figurines. I learned something about myself. We’ve cleaned these out before, but I’ve always been the one to sabotage it! When I saw ones they no longer wanted, but I wanted them to want, I would keep them as well. Isn’t that ridiculous? Well, now, I freed us all. I told them to seriously keep only the ones they truly loved and the rest we did get rid of. I’d love for them to get ahold of this ability to tidy sooner than later.

I’m listening to section four now and know I’ll listen through again. If this book sounds interesting, I’d highly recommend it as an audiobook. I found it very helpful to have my hands free as I heeded her advice. In fact, I think it would be annoying to read this and not be able to get to work immediately!

And one last thought. I texted my best friend and sister both photos of before and after moments this past weekend, both of whom are in purging moments of their lives. We have mused with each other, is this a right of passage? My best friend mentioned nesting, and I suggested, perhaps anti-nesting? We’ve raised the babes and we are ready to shrink our nests? Perhaps we don’t need so much around us to sooth our long Mothering days of wee ones? Perhaps? It’s just a thought. Either way, it’s feeling mighty nice.

 

Adapt. Overcome.

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Dear Husband and I have differing views on preparedness. He likes to have all the tools necessary and I like to make do. After years of marriage, we accept each other’s differing opinions and dare I say we’ve learned from them? His contention is a task is easier if you have the right tools to attack it. I agree with that. But, is that ever truly possible? 100% of the time? I like to bolster my argument, by pointing out that the unofficial mantra of the Marines is indeed my way, the adapt, overcome method. (And MacGyver, I mean come on, that guy was inspiring…even if not real…Okay, what about Bear Grylls?) He bolsters his with some Boy Scout’s mantra about always being prepared, always in a state of readiness, or something along those lines.

Onto the smores.

I packed only one package of chocolates for our ever important smores last weekend. I like to buy one bar to limit how many we eat. Night one, chocolate gone. Day two came around and smores looked pretty good again to the three fellas, and… yes to me too.

Dear Husband went into adapt, overcome mode. He made microwaved chocolate chips smores. This may seem a trifle thing to you. It may be something you already knew about, tried, or did. But, this is a marriage bolstering moment right here. It’s the one where Dear Husband used my mantra over his!

And, yes, I’ve learned as well. Last September I remember to pack an insect bite kit and was prepared!

So, we make a good match. Prepare and if you can’t then, adapt, overcome, eh?

Natural Spider Killer.

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When we moved South, we entered a buggy world. Our first summer, our poor old dog got fleas. That’s the first I’ve ever had to deal with that mess. Then we learned about termites. Apparently, all real estate down here must be treated every seven years with a moat of termite killer. Then I found out about chiggers. I’ve seen mothers freaking out about their children laying in the grass, and I don’t blame them. After a chigger experience, I would do the same. The worst is when I found out poisonous spiders, ones that like to live indoors, reside locally. Eeeek.

Dear Husband and I found some easy, natural, and effective ways to kill spiders. Listen, I’m not against nature and insects are very interesting outdoors. However, bad spiders do scare me and I’m sorry if any other bugs get caught in the crossfire.

1. Diatomaceous Earth: This is ground up fossilized shell powder that slices open any insect’s exoskeleton. When they walk across it, and get cut, they die via dehydration. It’s edible by humans, encouraged for worming in animals and recommended for dusting in chicken coops too. Speaking of dust, It is very dusty when you spread it. Before you buy this, please read online about precautions. We dusted our attic and our crawl space. I also dust corners of the garage, under the fridge and closets.

2. Sticky Traps: When the creepy crawlies crawl along the baseboard at night, we’ve got sticky traps ready to concrete them in their path. I try to replace the trap when it’s too dusty (for fear a spider might glide across the dust). They can also be called “insect monitoring boards.”

3. Chickens (and wild birds too): Free-ranging our chickens absolutely reduced our tick “issues” last year. They wander around the house, dig up loose topsoil and peck away. Local pest control told me when bug populations get reduced, spiders have less food. When spiders have less food, they go elsewhere looking for some. Of course, pest control wanted to spray for spiders, but I used this knowledge to convince Dear Husband to go for the chickens instead.

If you aren’t interested in domesticated birds, attract wild ones. We put out wool pinecones for birds to add into their nests this year for the first time. Our pond makes a great watering hole for many birds, but my parents do just as well with their maintained bird bath. A little bird feed will bring wild bird friends too.

4. Vacuum: I’m more vigilant about vacuuming the corners and eaves in the warmer weather, outdoors on the back and front porches too. Again, as the local pest control told me, less food = less spiders. When those spider webs go away, so does spider food.

I get it, shorter winters means insects that overwinter. I just don’t want things to get out of hand, and so I’m taking the natural spider killer job seriously. These are easy things I can do to keep those buggers at bay.

Slipper Love.

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Last week, after I finished up my pair of slippers, my younger son sidled up and asked for a pair. Happy to oblige, I quickly knitted up the red and yellow colors he choose. My older son tried those on and requested a pair of his own, his size, his color choices. He picked out his favorite yarns (black, yellow, and a tan/white blend) and I worked them up. He was pretty anxious to join in, hinting with comments like “Mom, let’s finish this up so you can go knit” or “What are you going to do next, work on knitting my slippers?”

Well, the slipper love keeps on going. Dear husband’s slippers are on my needles now and I have two more requests, my mom and mom-in-law. Seems I hit the knitted gift jackpot! It’s been so great giving my family gifts they truly want and something very useful too. Notice how battered these slippers look already? That’s because my boys refuse to take them off! They’ve even been sleeping in them and park them right by the door so they don’t forget to slip them back on after we return from car errands.

For the boys, in addition to the ribbon and leather bottoms like mine, I added a small elastic thread with a pull stop to make the slippers stay on. They can slide it up and down easily.

Another slipper love bonus, total yarn stash buster! Hold three or four strands of yarn together and you’re bound to use it up quickly. It makes for a soft, thick slipper bottom and a dwindling yarn pile. Both very good things.

What are you working on today?

Making Soap At Home.

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Well, I did it. All by myself. I made a dozen bars of soap in January and they are ready to use. This was my first unaided attempt. I’m very happy that it worked, but I did learn a few things.

Scenting: I definitely need to add more scented oils. I was afraid of getting too rambunctious and scaled it way back. Too much so, I doubt I even used 20 drops of each scent. So, these bars pretty much just smell like soap. That’s definitely not a bad thing, considering that’s what it is, but I want to punch up the lavender and tea tree oil much more next round.

Beeswax: I wanted to add beeswax to harden and add some color. I shaved it sloppily and had different sized chunks. The larger chunks didn’t melt, and so I have some wax chunks in my soap. That doesn’t bother me as much as the fear of chunks of wax jamming my plumbing. I’ve picked them out as I wash so they don’t create that clog. Next time I will bring out my beeswax crock pot and start it up first thing. That way I can add it as a liquid. Problem solved.

Mold: I used an old, rusty cast iron pan for my mold. I lay plastic wrap, thoroughly I thought, over the top so I could easily release the soaps. Next time, first I will clean than pan and then I will spend much more time on that plastic wrap. It was loose, and a lot of rust got on the outside of two or three of my bars. It came off, but it was a waste of time. I just need to prep better.

With these notes, I’m excited to make another batch in the next week or so. I like the small batches for now as I’m learning. I think the repetition and learning experiences are valuable. All in all, I’m ever so gleeful that I’ve tackled something I’ve wanted to do for many, many years and that my learning curve finally started.

Animal in My Attic.

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(A squirrel’s tail, not the one from the story, but one I found on our property a while ago.)

I’m sorry to say this tale doesn’t end happily. I just want to get that out straight away.

There is an awful smell in the bathroom. Musty? Dear husband and I knew what this meant. The squirrel that was trying to move into the attic was most likely dead. We tried to trap him using tantalizing baits. He was an unwelcome neighbor and we knew he had to go…elsewhere.

Our attic is also littered with blocks of poison for mice. It’s ingrained in us, after living in the middle of cornfields. Let me tell you something, mice are bad. Very bad. They have no discretion. They ruin it all.

Well, when we heard the 7:30 AM prancing of little squirrel feet (confirmed by sightings of him crawling out of the gutter, cracked shells, and dusty footprints) for a week, we called a few roofing companies. Three quotes, two traps, and more prancing feet later (he was seriously wacky, like racing around in circles), we started noticing he was eating the mouse poison, gobs of it! We were told he would NEVER eat it, that we should bait our traps with peanuts, peanut butter, french fries, and whatever else. In the end, he preferred the poison.

Y’all know what happens here, he dines, he slowly dies… in the attic.

We have a cathedral ceiling in the kitchen, which creates a crazy pitch in the attic. I climbed over it, slithered into this wonderful place to lure a squirrel to live, and into the far nether regions to find a squirrel, dead, really, really, really dead. With rubber gloves and a plastic bag, I removed him, along with a mouse. Hey, I was up there, I may as well grab it. Oh yeah, I removed piles of squirrel poop too…. moving on.

Anyhow, he’s been permanently relocated, and all is well, for us anyways. Hopefully the squirrel nook isn’t shouting “vacancy” because I’m sure there is no fun in any of this. And, I’ve got another awful note, the bathroom still smells “musty.” Ugh.