31 May 2014

Signs of Progress

Friends, I am on a serious mission to clear stuff out of this house. Since last summer, I have felt the heavy burden of too much STUFF and have been going through a slow and tedious process of sorting and making decisions about what to keep and what to let go.

For the past several months, my basement has looked like this:
I cannot overemphasize how completely NUTS it makes me to have a mess like this in my house. This is all stuff I brought here from my childhood home before our estate sale. Stuff that held emotional baggage of one sort or another. Stuff that has been very, very hard to even see.

But as time has passed and my wounds have started to heal, I've been able to look at all of this stuff with a much more objective eye. (It also helps to have my daughter home to give me feedback about what she would eventually like to keep.) I never intended to keep all the stuff I brought home...I just couldn't bear to let it all go back in September. 

And of course, I'm still not letting it all go. But as you can see in the photo below, I have finally made some progress! For the first time in a very long time, I can see most of the carpet! Much, much sorting remains, but I have now consolidated my boxes with similar items which should make the process much easier. I have hauled load after load to our local hospice thrift store, which always makes me feel good.

As part of this process, I had to make space in the basement for my mom's four large dollhouses. While I don't have permanent tables or spots for them YET, at least I have them out of the direct light and in a place where they can be enjoyed.

 We will take the Christmas house upstairs next holiday season. For now, it is safely tucked out of the sunlight, which will rapidly fade paint and wallpaper.

 In addition to the basement stuff, I've been going through closets, drawers, and every nook and cranny in the house, skimming off what we don't need and taking it to donate. I consolidated all of our arts and crafts supplies (crayons, glitter, beads, etc.) onto one shelving unit in the basement storage area. It doesn't look perfect, but everything is in one place and labeled. And it's working: Bailey has been able to easily "shop at home" for all the craft supplies she needs for camp!

In addition to donating lots of things, I've also signed up to be a vendor at a local antique store. I will be setting up my case this coming weekend. I only have five shelves so it won't take much to fill it. I think this will be a perfect way to offload a few treasures...including the 200 cans in Spouse's beer can collection. YIKES!
It has been motivating to me knowing that I need to fill a vendor case. That in itself has helped me make progress.

In addition to researching and pricing beer cans, I've been marking a few other treasures, too. I'll be selling a lot of vintage candy boxes and many other treasures. Don't worry...I'm keeping plenty. :)
I still have miles and miles to go, but at least I have a plan and a direction now: A SIMPLIFIED LIFE. Watch for an update on my booth! :)

30 May 2014

Feline Friday: Double Cat Saturday Night!

See this? This almost NEVER happens. 
One cat on the lap? Sure...daily, in fact. The other cat on the lap? Occasionally. 

But BOTH kitties together? It's the BEST THING EVER! 
It's Double Cat Saturday Night! Or Monday night...or whatever.

All the stars have to line up just right in order for this to occur. Tinsel must be on my lap first. Then Lily must sneak up from the side and position herself slightly behind Tinsel's immediate view, with no part of her furry body touching Tinsel's.

Although it's always brief, Double Cat Saturday Night is completely fun while it lasts!

27 May 2014

Counselor Gifts: Decorated Clipboards

 We love it when Bailey is home, even briefly. And it's especially enjoyable for me when a craft project is in the works. No matter who initiates it, it's always fun to work on projects with her! This time I barely contributed at all, but I still enjoyed watching the process!

 Bailey will be working at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp again this summer. Last summer she was a cabin counselor, supervising four different groups of middle and high school girls over the course of the summer. This year, she will be supervising up to eight counselors and will be responsible for the activities of all the girls in the unit. It's a big job with lots of responsibility, and it will be a great learning experience for her as she prepares to be a music educator.

Bailey takes after her mom in a few ways, and one of them is planning! She likes to have everything organized and ready to go. So when she decided to make welcome gifts for her counselors, she researched and thought a lot before deciding on a gift. When she landed on decorated clipboards, I was a happy camper...no pun intended!

My only contribution to this big project was helping her choose paper to use on her clipboards. We picked out paper from my stash then made a run to Memory Bound to buy a few additional sheets. Then she set to work with a container of Mod Podge, an old credit card, a brayer, and a template for her paper.

She cut all of her paper first using her template. This made the process of creating nine clipboards much easier.

Most decorated clipboards I've seen have the "decoration" on the front side on the surface below the clip. But Bailey decided to put the main decoration on the back side so that when the clipboard is in use, the "pretty" side will still be visible. I would never have considered doing this, but it turned out to be a great idea!

Here are the fronts of a few clipboards:

 After they dried, she decided to add ribbon trim to the tops. Again, she "shopped" in my extensive ribbon stash. (Why, oh why, do I have soooo much ribbon???)

 And here are the completed clipboards! The fronts are shown in the top row, with the backs directly below.

 At the end of the summer, you could print out a favorite camp photo and place it on the front of the clipboard for fun keepsake.

 I think the clipboards are adorable and will be a perfect (and practical) welcome gift for her new team!

23 May 2014

Feline Friday: Thrift Store "Find"

 This week I've been hauling some stuff to the local thrift store. I had a little room left in my SUV so I grabbed this breakfast tray...

 ...and this basket.

But the very INSTANT I pulled the basket out of the closet, a certain SOMEONE claimed it as her own! I guess everyone loves a good thrift store "find"!

So Bailey decided we'd keep the basket around for a few days until the "new" wears off, then I'll take it with my next load! I have to admit, it fits her PURR-fectly!

21 May 2014

Fun with An Immersion Blender

 Since last fall, I've been thinking about buying an immersion blender. I really don't know why it has taken me so long to take the plunge (no pun intended!). Immersion blenders are not all that expensive ($31 - $70+), especially if you buy one without a lot of attachments. But I took time to read reviews and check out the options before I finally settled on a simple Kitchenaid model I found at Target. This one comes with a container for making smoothies and other types of drinks, and the bottom part goes in the dishwasher. Score!

 I've been on the hunt for an immersion blender because many of the soups I've been making need to be blended. I'm not super handy in the kitchen, and without an immersion blender I have to POUR SCALDING HOT SOUP into our regular stand blender, plus remember to SCREW THE BOTTOM ON TIGHTLY and PUT THE LID ON before I push the button. As you might imagine, there are many opportunities for mishaps in this process, and I've experienced each one. (I also tried using my hand mixer--with beaters--to puree soup. That was a very bad decision.)

An immersion blender allows you to puree soup right in the pot where it's cooking. The blade is covered, so it does not splatter hot soup everywhere while doing its thing. This device also makes it easy to create smoothies, milkshakes, and frappucinos. The recipe for peach/raspberry smoothies caught Daughter's eye right away.

She's always the one to test new tools around here. (It's much safer that way!)

The immersion blender is super-easy to use. (That's actually HER hand, but even I can do it!)

With very little effort and virtually no mess, she created yummy smoothies for us!
I think I'm going to like this new toy!

19 May 2014

Three New Things

 I've been in a funny sort of mood lately, feeling like I really need to change some things. That's a bit strange for me, since I usually have a hard time with change. But there comes a time when even I have to admit that change can be good. I guess I've come to realize that if you always keep things exactly the same -- or keep doing the same things -- you'll miss out on a lot of what life has to offer.

So in the past few days, I've decided to embark on three new things. Just putting these plans in place has made me feel better, as I try to re-shape my life with positive, uplifting activities!

 #1 - Garden Re-Design
For years I have struggled to achieve my "vision" of cottage-style gardens around our house. Each summer I work so hard, only to end up disappointed and frustrated with my results. So I contacted and met with a garden designer who is going to help re-design my flower beds. She will provide me with a new plan using my existing plants (and some new ones!), then I'll do the work of moving things around to fit the plan. This will likely be a multi-year project. I'm so excited to get started!
  #2 - Family History
 When we moved my grandma to a nursing home in February, I became the keeper of her genealogy books. Grandma has worked very hard on our family history over the years, and we had planned for me to be the one to carry the torch for her. I truly believe these books are a treasure...but I don't have a clue where to start. So I signed up for a genealogy class! I'm excited to dive into this project and see how I can integrate it with my scrapbooking.

 #3 - Antiques Booth
 After sorting through boxes and boxes of stuff in our basement, I finally decided enough was enough. So I signed up to be a vendor at a local antique store! I chose a small vendor case, which will allow me to display and sell a few items at a time. I will be setting up my display on June 1, so watch for more information! I can't wait to make a dent in the stuff around here.

Stay tuned for updates on these three new things! I truly believe each will be a positive -- and hopefully FUN -- addition to my life!

16 May 2014

Feline Friday: Blue Bouncy Ball

As I was cleaning out a few things around here, I happened upon Lily's long lost BLUE BOUNCY BALL. Oh, my heavens...how did she live without this ball? She is completely OBSESSED WITH IT!  

Now that it has resurfaced, Blue Bouncy Ball has become a big part of Lily's much-needed exercise program. Well, OK...it is her ENTIRE exercise program!

Because of its knobby design, you never know which direction Blue Bouncy Ball is going to bounce. Lily runs every which way trying to follow it, and she just can't get enough. That's a big improvement from a kitty who generally likes to play while lying down!

Lily is so fixated on Blue Bouncy Ball that Bailey is teaching her to play fetch. But mostly she carries it around in her mouth and meows when she wants us to toss it across the room. Yes, it is pretty adorable. :)

Now that she's exercising and eating less, here's hoping we don't lose Blue Bouncy Ball again!

UPDATE: It's been a long time since I bought these particular cat toys, but I searched online and found similar balls called "Atomic Rubber Bouncing Balls". Be aware that the small nibs can be chewed off. Lily has never swallowed a nib, but we do watch her carefully when she plays with it.

13 May 2014

Cubes - Doubled!

After living with my craft room for awhile now, one of the things I've noticed is that I lack surface areas for projects. I have two small tables in the room, but much of the available work surface is taken up by supplies. When my daughter was home over Christmas break, we spent quite a lot of time working on her summer camp album on the floor because there wasn't enough room to spread out on the tables.

As we worked on her project, we talked about possible solutions to this problem and decided that one big help would be to double my cube space. I've had my Target cubes for awhile, but when I re-organized my craft area I purchased canvas drawers which filled them, completely eliminating any surface area within the cubes for supplies such as ribbon jars or decorative items. So I decided I would get two additional cube units to place back to back with my existing cubes, freeing up some of the cubes for "stand alone" supplies.

BEFORE: Two cube units with every space filled. The canvas bins are great, but they're not workable for every type of crafting supply. In addition, I really wanted some "open" space in the cube units for variety.

 Unfortunately, life has been complicated in the past few months, so I hadn't had a chance to buy the new cubes and put them in place. Enter Dear Daughter, who decided new cubes would make a great Mother's Day present, and she was right! She even assembled them for me. It doesn't get any better than that!
Here's how the new DOUBLE cubes look! I now have four units which are placed back to back, doubling the number of compartments from 12 to 24. We spread my 12 canvas bins around to fill the 24 slots, leaving 12 slots for additional supplies which previously took up table space elsewhere in the room. And now I have additional space on top of the shelves to spread out projects when I'm working.

 AFTER: Space inside the cubes for supplies.

 AFTER: More storage space on the back side. Now the stamps which previously took up space on my table are inside the cubes.

As you can see, I haven't quite filled up the space within the cubes yet, as I am still moving stuff around. And I need to move the units closer together so I don't have the gap between them. But I'm very pleased with the new configuration. It's a small change which makes a huge difference!

11 May 2014

So Much More Than Bluebells

My dear late grandma surely fit the definition of eccentric. She lived in an old house which, had my parents not patched it together with some regularity, might have been considered tumbledown. Especially in her later years, she insultated herself from the world, limiting her interactions to family members and the occasional stray cats which took up residence under her porch.

To the outside observer, one might have thought she led a bleak existence. But to the contrary, she filled her days with creative pursuits --baking all sorts of cakes and pies, sewing intricate quilts, and designing and a wide assortment of stuffed animals, many with a wardrobe of whimsical clothes. She created beautiful art with chalk, watercolors, pastel crayons, and acrylic paint. Her closets were stuffed full of things which inspired her creativity -- jars of acorns, boxes of tiny snail shells, and smooth rocks gathered at the shore.

And she gardened. But being one who refused to color inside the lines, Grandma's flowers were not confined to the traditional flower bed. She much preferred a naturalized look and took great pleasure in having a yard scattered with colorful daffodils and bluebells. The unfortunate task of mowing her yard fell to my dad, and heaven help him if a few flowers were sacrificed in the course of an afternoon. Grandma could spot a missing tulip in an instant and didn't hesitate to rake him over the coals for it.

My grandma cultivated in me an appreciation of art and nature, and she couldn't wait for me to have a yard so she could share her flowers. A few years before she passed away, she gave me several clumps of bluebells. They arrived at my house wrapped in wet paper towels, and I dutifully planted them in the front garden.

That first year, they fell down flat and soon disappeared into the earth. But the next April, they were among the first flowers to bloom.

My grandma is gone now. We moved as many of her flowers as we could before her house was torn down to make way for a church parking lot. Each spring the bluebells have multiplied, and now the cheerful flowers grace the entire front of our house, reminding me of the many lessons she taught me.

09 May 2014

Feline Friday: Where's Lily Now?

Sorry for the delay with this Feline Friday post! It's so late that it almost became a CATURDAY post! But I have a good excuse for being late: We just got home from moving our daughter home from college. Good times!

Lily has been busy this past week doing LILY THINGS. One evening I found her camouflaged on a shelf. I see you, Lily!

The next day I was hanging up shirts and turned around to find her in the dryer...AGAIN! In spite of more than one dryer incident, Lily is a slow learner. We have to keep a close eye on the dryer at all times!

Then as if to celebrate Bailey's arrival home, Lily fit herself into one of Bailey's plastic containers.

You never know where you might find her!

02 May 2014

Feline Friday: I Can't Have FUN!

Lily and Tinsel have a weird LOVE/HATE relationship: Lily LOVES Tinsel, but Tinsel HATES Lily! 

Nevertheless, Tinsel occasionally plays little games with Lily, like this one when they sit on either side of a door. They reach around the outside and bat at each other, or slide a paw under the door to tease. This game goes on only for a little bit...until Tinsel catches herself ALMOST having fun!