Four Days to Go…

With a Saturday deadline screaming up on me, I’m “prioritizing” what needs to be done for having a house full of strangers. I’d rather get one or two things done right, so they don’t have to be redone, than get all the things done kinda crappily.

In the spirit of one of my goals this year, I have reached out and accepted offers of help. This time last year I would be working alone, late into the night. I’m trying to figure out the best way to get things done that need to be done without sacrificing my sanity and sleep. I am having someone come in at the last-minute to help clean so this is all a big adjustment in my thinking. (mutters to self, “I can be independent without doing it all. I can be independent without doing it all.”)

Monday’s progress:

Books moved to center of room, shelves pulled off walls and giant holes patched.

Most of the dining room walls have the first coat of paint.

After several test pots of color, I settled on Knitting Needle gray in the dining room and living room. It is the same gray I used in the family room and it is a really good neutral. It changes in the light so that it looks almost blue sometimes, tan other times, and just about every color looks good against it. Even that red wall doesn’t look too bad. The red accent wall will be changed though to a dark blue.

Distance Blue to be exact. Here it is against the Knitting Needle gray. Appreciate the fancy, staged photos displaying my color palette. I’m a different kind of lifestyle expert.

The patched wall in the living room has to have both coats of paint and the trim painted by Thursday when the new bookshelves are delivered and start going up against that wall.

Just to add a little spice to the soup that is my life, I have a home visit today from the greyhound foster coordinator. The local rescue group has had a big batch of dogs come in and are desperate for foster homes. I’m not even sure I’m ready for a new greyhound but it seems more important to step up and help. They need to come by to make sure I can provide a safe environment for a foster greyhound. I’m hoping she can see through all the chaos that the house has become as rooms get shifted for painting. I’m still scurrying around to clean things up a little. No need to share the great drifts of tumblefur that accumulate. I also think it’s probably a good idea to get rid of all the crusties from the counter. No one wants to see those.

It’s a little intimidating to have someone come in and judge whether you can provide a good home for a dog. Even after having greyhounds for 18 years, what if she comes in and rejects me? What if I’ve been doing it wrong all this time? Please pick me!

*ahem*

OK, I’ll try to keep the insecurity in check.

There is so much to do it is positively overwhelming. This would be a challenge for someone who could be home working on it all day but to face it when I’m working long hours in the office? I just set micro-goals. Get the shelves off the wall. Get the bookshelf wall painted. Get the window trim painted. It isn’t the end of the world if someone sees my walls with the old color on it

As for Saturday, I’ll get as much done as I possibly can and then put the rooms back together. I find that having lots of wine and chocolate goes a long way in distracting people so that is the strategy for now. “You don’t see the unpainted trim along the floor…you only see that gorgeous Trifle (aka Dirt Cake in a Trifle dish) on the table…”

Micro-goal for today? Get a coat of paint on the bookshelf wall.

Wish me luck!

Crazy Ideas

The Divine VEB (I’m just giving that to her as a title from now on) has proposed an interesting idea today that has made me rather philosophical. About kitchens. Yes, I’m thinking philosophically about kitchens. It’s possible.

She is frustrated that all kitchens look alike and that they persist in having “boxes.” By boxes she meant cabinets. At first I was confused. What is a kitchen without cabinets? Where do you put your stuff? As I read through the comments, someone mentioned having a large walk-in pantry for dishes and appliances with walls free for pictures or artwork. I was stunned. That sounds fabulous! It also sounds much more usable than all the cabinets hanging on the wall. How big my kitchen would feel without the wall cabinets! Unfortunately, my kitchen space is wee and there is nothing that could ever double for a walk-in pantry so I’m stuck with cabinets here. But it really got me to thinking.

1915 Kitchen

That is an old timey Keurig she holds right there.

In 1915, most kitchens were confined spaces. Why would you want easy access to the kitchen? The servants were working in there. Plus, kitchens made a lot more than food so I imagine there were more smells than just cooking smells you wanted to keep confined. Can you imagine what their reaction would be to a kitchen that was open to the general living area? “The whole house will smell! There will be cooking grease on the surface of your furniture! Who would want to entertain company in their KITCHEN?”

Today it is just as unthinkable to have a kitchen closed off from the rest of the house. We don’t want to be confined to the kitchen while everyone else is having fun. Also, there are no servants, there is just me and I want to watch Doctor Who while I chip spaghetti sauce off the counter. Is that too much to ask? We do have a lot of cabinets but we have a lot more stuff too. We also found out that the furniture isn’t ruined by proximity to the kitchen and mostly the smells are good and we like having them throughout the house. Unless I’m making cauliflower. That stuff never smells right.

1950Kitchen

Bless this young mom having to keep her kids in that tiny room with her to keep an eye on them and physically manhandling them so they don’t burn themselves on the oven. And she is roasting a chicken! That woman is a freakin’ super hero.

The Divine VEB has made me think that our kitchens are in for another big change. If our kitchens are a part of the rest of the living space, wouldn’t it be nice to have them less obtrusive? They become an elegant corner where you can find food and drink but they don’t loom over the rest of the space like they do now. Now I’m looking at my cabinets and I sneer at them. All my things hanging on my walls. Just hanging there in big boxes. They do hold the wine glasses and Nutella which isn’t too bad. Maybe I won’t yank them down just yet.

OldTimeyKitchen

What do you think this woman could do with the counter space we insist on having now?

What is the next generation of kitchen though? Will they disappear all together into a single, small opening in the wall? Will we finally get our replicators and won’t have to worry about food preparation?

Replicator

So Klingons like that chunky Mexican bubble glass too?

I’m OK with that. Clearly, they take care of presentation. But do you program the style of dishes you want? Do you set a table with flair and a theme? What if that Klingon wanted cut crystal glasses? Now that I look at it again, he does look rather disappointed.

The replicator idea also made me start thinking about the dishes. What do they do with the dirty dishes? Do you put them back on the replicator platform? Are they recycled or consumed? Are leftovers a forgotten concept? Now I won’t be able to see Jean-Luc Picard drinking his Earl Grey tea without thinking, “where do the dirty dishes go?”

JLP

Now he’s wondering about it too.

Last week I had to get a new power surge strip for my office and found that even those are changing and making more “sense” for what we do today. How many times have I had to crawl around the floor in a skirt or work clothes while I plug things in? The fact that those gray, fabric cube walls all have their outlets around the bottom just shows how easy it is to keep doing things the way they were done before without even questioning whether it might make sense to do it differently today. My new surge protector can sit on top of my desk where it is MUCH easier to use and I can charge my phone and tablet which is handy since these slim laptops have very few USB ports.

There are plugs on all four sides.

They just need to think about how to make it divine looking now and it will be perfect. Can we hide the outlets in a damask design?

This is the kind of dangerous thinking that doesn’t stop. I’ll be wandering around the house thinking of ways we need to be doing things differently. If I can’t have a replicator, I at least want a microwave that cleans itself. Someone make that happen, OK?

 

1915 Image courtesy of Shorpy Historical Photo Archive.

Collection of kitchen images from this awesome Pinterest board. Look at how many actresses had to pose in their kitchens like they were cooking. “It’s fine that you are a talented actress honey, but can you be a real woman and cook me something?”

Why Do Things the Easy Way?

A long, intense work week. At one point, I noticed skeins of yarn on a table in the room (I’m sure for some exercise) and I couldn’t stop looking at it. I finally resorted to knitting it with two straws I found at the bottom of my purse. It was lovely. At the end of the day I just unraveled it and wound it back onto the skein. It was the act of knitting I needed.

I’m hosting book club in a few weeks so I’m in frantic mode, getting my dining room painted and my living room walls patched and painted so they will be ready for the new bookcases which will arrive about two days before book club. Frantic activity before an arbitrarily adopted deadline. Does this sound familiar? It’s how I roll.

I haven’t really put paint to walls yet unless you count the test patches. At first I thought I had my palette determined but I tested the light color on the walls and I think I’m going to want a darker, neutral shade. Time to go to the paint store and look at samples.

The top left gray is my kitchen/family room. The dark blue on the right will be the accent wall in the dining room. The yellow in between was going to be the primarily color in the dining/living room. It is much less yellow in person. More green/wheat color.

color-swatch

This swatch is closer to the right color only I swear it is lighter in person. This is actually very close to what I want.

 

So this week I’ll find the exact color of taupey/putty neutral that will make everything look sophisticated, somehow get my window trim painted and swap out the butt-ugly plastic louvres for white, plastic blinds (which will still look yards better than the louvres) without having to hang a sheet over the window like a dorm room and get art work framed without breaking the bank so that the rooms look finished.

That is all.

We all need a nap after hearing that plan.

Making Stuff

You guys, you guys, you guys! I don’t cook often and when I do, I consider simplicity and easiness of paramount importance. I made the BEST pot roast last week and I have to share because it checks all the boxes. Except for the box that makes it Weight Watcher friendly. But honestly, when it tastes this good, who cares?

I had seen recipes for Mississippi Pot Roast floating around. It looked so weird that I knew I had to try it. Mom was coming into town and she is my favorite Guinea pig so I gave it a go. All you do is sprinkle a packet of Au Jus and a packet of Ranch Dressing on top of the pot roast. Sprinkle around some pepperoncinis (I used chopped pepperoncinis instead of whole because I didn’t know what they heck they are. I still kind of don’t). Don’t skip the pepperonchinis. I can’t take spicy food but these don’t make it spicy, it just makes it very flavorful. I erred on the side of less but next time I won’t be afraid to do more. Top the whole thing off with a stick of butter.

That’s right. a stick of butter. It sounded kind of gross (I’m not a huge butter fan) but I also knew it was probably just there to act as a fat to break down the meat. Sure enough, it melted almost right away and the pot roast just simmered in it.

The gravy this creates is so flavorful, you can serve it with mashed potatoes but I saw a recipe for crock pot Parmesan risotto and wanted to try that. It ended up being a great pairing because the risotto was actually kind of strong so you didn’t want to have a lot of gravy. This reduced the butter consumption. After I refrigerated the left overs, the butter separated and solidified at the top of the dish (it actually looked just like butter again). I just popped it all off and threw it away. It had already done its job and everything tasted wonderful. This made me feel a little better about cooking with a whole stick of butter. You aren’t actually consuming a whole stick of butter.

The risotto turned out wonderful too and it is also a super easy recipe so I highly recommend it.

Both of these were so good my mom went back for thirds. She was uncomfortably full but couldn’t stop standing over the crock pot and eating a little more. I hope she doesn’t read this post.

What else am I making? Well, since I’ve gotten control of the yarn stash, I can knit again!

A friend at work is pregnant so I started a baby blanket. I noticed her phone case is a chevron pattern so I thought it would be fun to do a chevron baby blanket. This is such a fun pattern. I love how it looks but it is already getting to that point where I can’t wad it up in a little bag and haul it around everywhere. I’m just using up some left over Lion Brand Microfiber (it’s discontinued). It makes a super soft fabric that is kind of a pain to knit with (it’s multi-stranded like embroidery floss) but it is totally machine washable/dryable so it is perfect for leaky babies (is there any other kind of baby?).

It feels like I haven’t been able to make stuff for a really long time so I was really happy this weekend, eatin’ pot roast and knittin’ chevron.

If Things Have to Change, Can I Make Them Better?

Life is falling back into familiar patterns. Even if we are one man down. I can’t wait to put the holiday behind us. I’ve been ruthless about cleaning the house which is VERY unusual for me. Mostly it was to have something to do and to remove sad reminders of Frankie (and probably a control thing too). It ended up being absolutely the right thing to do as we got back test results on a culture from Frankie and found out that after his surgery, he had a couple of different strains of infection; one of them MRSA. For the safety of everyone in the house, super-cleaning was critical and I’m so glad I was doing that well before we even took the cultures.

I had house guests over the last week which was lovely. Family from the UK. It felt easy and was a wonderful distraction. We had a big birthday celebration at my house for my stepfather and I made two pies: coconut cream (his favorite) and a sour cream apple. Another evening we brought in take-out Greek food and had a lot of fun trying out the different dishes, flavors, and talked and laughed over each other. It was very nice.

Fun can be exhausting.

Today I drove the UK contingent of family to the MAX station (our local public transport train system) for their journey to the airport and, finally, back to their home. I get to begin the process of working my way through leftovers of all the wonderful meals we had which is one of my favorite things to do after holidays/celebrations. Great eating combined with memories of the people I want to hold close. It was really foggy this morning as I dropped them off and now it is crystal clear with blue skies. It truly seems like a new year today.

I don’t generally make new year resolutions because birthdays always seem more like an annual marker for me. But after a big change, like losing one of the family, it all feels different anyway so I can’t help but feel resolute about things.

  • I want to be smarter with my money this year so I’m not always feeling like I’m in a bind. Specific goal, build up my savings so I have at least two months mortgage payment on hand.
  • I want to do better at prioritizing things I do. More time with family and things I love and less time trying to catch up on chores. Chores are necessary but they can also be stupid. I’m just going to hire someone to help with chores now and then so it isn’t this THING hanging over my head all the time. Specific goal, hire a plumber to fix a couple of leaks we have, hire an electrician to fix the outlets and lights that are offset in the bedrooms, hire a cleaning service at least once a month for a good, deep clean of the house.
  • Finish things. Finishing things just isn’t fun so I don’t do it and then it becomes another thing hanging over my head. Specific goal, paint the fourth, and final, wall of the family room, touch up the paint in the kitchen, install the backsplash in the kitchen.
  • Socialize with my friends more. Specific goal, try to do something with friends at least once a month.

Nothing earth-shattering but these have all been difficult for me and all would make my life a little better/easier. It’s great to fall back into familiar routines but it seems like a good idea to shed the routines that aren’t healthy or helpful.

All meals should have jokes and prizes.

Any plans for the year to make your life a little healthier or happier?

Like taking more naps.

 

I’m Just Going to Crawl Back Into Bed, OK?

I can’t say this has been a great holiday. I can’t say it was a good year. In fact, it was a pretty crappy year.

The Great Yarn Giveaway was a success. My knitty friends did an admirable job and all staggered out with more yarn than I believe they planned to take. A very good friend did me the greatest kindness and took everything that was left over to a local charity. I cannot emphasize enough, the satisfaction of not having to deal with any yarn after the giveaway.

DR

It looks like someone shrunk the table.

In addition to having my dining room back, I have my living room back too. The next task is to replace the broken shelves with bookcases so all those books can come off the floor.

I should probably think about putting away the wrapping paper since I’m not likely to give more Christmas presents soon.

The 1/4 left that I kept is still a very respectable amount. I will never lack for great knitting material. However, I at least have my arms around what I have and can actually make use of it now.

This small victory aside, the holiday has been overshadowed by the loss of my beloved Frankie. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Unfortunately, it is not an uncommon disease for greyhounds and big dogs in general. I had to say good-bye only yesterday. I’m cleaning up the house for house guests but there are so many painful reminders of his illness and my caring for him 24/7 for nearly two weeks.

Oscar and I are sticking close to each other.

The bar has been set pretty low 2015. Try to do better than your predecessor.

Yarn Bomb

It’s been a really productive weekend. Not only did I go through ALL of the yarn, but I was able to organize the stash that is staying. I definitely made my 50% goal (get rid of at least half) and I think I managed to hit the 3/4 goal I had really wanted to make.

I will organize the stash that is going and I’ve invited every knitter/crocheter within 50 miles to come by and take what they want. I was very liberal with what is going so there is some primo yarn in the go pile.

Scarlet had the best time during this whole process. She had to sit in every basket and bin I went through. Each one was explored, sneefed, and bitten when needed.

Predator

Getting this done is an enormous relief. I’ve been dreading it for so long (a few years) that finishing it up is just a huge weight off my shoulders.

It’s also a big relief to get so much of it out of the living room. It feels like I conquered a giant.

Now I just need to get the holiday decorating done and I might feel like the holiday won’t overwhelm me.

Zen Kitty

The Stuff in the Middle

All the time, I hear people say that big projects get much messier in the middle when everything is in flux. That has certainly been the case for me and all my projects around the house. The problem is, my middle takes F O R E V E R because I have so much regular life going on. I lost the use of my living room while I worked on the home office which I was pretty patient about until now. I want it back for the holidays. I don’t decorate a lot but I do like to have my dining room and living room sparkly. It makes me happy.

So I made a big push over the last few weeks to get the last of the office crap combed through, disposed of, and put back. There is still some work to be done in there to organize everything and finish getting shelves up on the walls but I hope to do that this weekend. The important thing is, the office crap is out of the living room!

That is not all of the yarn against the wall in this picture. There is an equal amount of yarn on the opposite side of the room too.

Mostly.

There are a few, small piles that I need to deal with (where do I put the pile of old electronics that need to go to the hazardous waste drop?) and there is a crap-ton of yarn still. Seriously. I’m mortified about how that stuff accumulated. I had originally planned on selling it but it looks like such an overwhelming job, I may just donate it and write it off.

This is not even all the yarn in the house. There is more in the guest room and garage. I’m a little gobsmacked myself. The office feels full now too so I’m not even sure where I’ll put the stuff I’m keeping.

I did indulge in a new rug and coffee table for the living room. This is a fairly big deal for me because I tend to stay with the same furniture forever. Apparently I have to do that because all my money goes to yarn. The rug and coffee table were great incentives for pushing to finish the clearing of the living room.

The rug is very different from anything I have and have decorated with before. I have been a bit obsessed with big graphic prints like this for over a year now. My love for them does not seem to be abating and when I saw this rug, I absolutely fell in love with it. When I was first looking at it, it was pretty expensive (it fluctuated between $500 and $800). I kept looking at it (oh no, I just saw it in brown and white and I almost love it more) and coveting it but I just couldn’t bring myself to spend so much on a rug. I have pets (sometimes 5 and 6 dogs at a time when family is visiting). We are very hard on floors and rugs. But finally, I saw the rug go up for sale on another website and it had come way down to about $300 so I decided I couldn’t pass it up. I feel so grown up! And also, why did I spend so much right before Christmas? Idiot!

It’s a pretty good size for a game table.

The coffee table was something I was hemming and hawing about for a while. I knew I wanted something fairly large because the living room space is kind of big and I don’t have a lot of stuff in there. I wanted something two-tiered because I had ideas about keeping games and books on the bottom tier and using the table for games. I love board games. I’ve seen different iterations of this style with different manufacturers and while I kind of liked the rustic/industrial look, it was kind of contrived and so overpriced. Then it popped up all of a sudden at Cost Plus and for a decent price. They had a 20% off sale online so I pulled the trigger and got it for under $200 (but they still let me pick it up at the store saving me shipping charges). This is another big, grown-up expense for me. I’ve always had thrift shop coffee tables which may be why they never quite worked for what I needed them to do.

This has ended up being the exact right size and I love that it is on casters so I can pull the table around where I want it when playing games.

A better shot of the two sides of the room. Tons of yarn, and a small pile of electronics and CDs. I don’t quite know what to do with either of them.

I wonder how everyone in the family would feel about getting a box of yarn for Christmas?

I’m Not Noble After All

I’m trying to get a handle on Christmas early this year because, for some reason, it always takes me by surprise; like it moves around the calendar or something. But this  year, I’m shopping early. I discovered Groupon Goods which has had a few good ideas and good prices (we’ll see about the quality). Something that annoys me though is that all the shipping boxes have “I’m here to make you happy!” printed on the side.

My initial response was to react negatively. “How superficial do they think I am?” I thought, “I mean, I’m not as shallow as that to have a THING make me happy.”

But then I opened one of my boxes and I had forgotten that I ordered this:

DiscoShowerhead

The auto-change, 7-setting, disco light shower head

And then I realized that yes, yes I am that shallow. Because this thing made me very happy.

Fancy and Not Fancy

I was in a job interview once for a big cooking website. I was perfect for the job and I was getting along with the interviewers and it was looking like the job was in the bag. Then the interviewers started mocking Nilla Wafers. I’ve probably bought two boxes of Nilla Wafers my entire life but it really bothered me that they were making fun of them just because they are not fancy. I couldn’t let it go for some reason so I defended the Nilla Wafer. Just because something isn’t fancy, doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome. I did not get the job and I knew that’s what would happen when I defended the Nilla Wafer but for some reason, this was my Norma Rae moment.

NormaRae

Years ago, I created an anti-Bond character named Kevin. Kevin lived in his parents’ basement and drove a Pinto. I love James Bond and have watched all the movies multiple times but I also love Kevin. I love the little guy who is awkward, not talented, but still somehow succeeds once in a while because he just keeps trying. Kevin is basically the Nilla Wafer of spies. He’s not fancy, but he gets the job done.

I’d like to say I’m fighting for the little guy but the truth is, I just like to be contrary. Especially if someone is trying to set something up as a new standard. We have such short memories. Today, Nilla Wafers are “common” but they used to be a southern delicacy until Nabisco figured out how to preserve them and mass produced them. We normalize things until we decide they aren’t exclusive enough. That just chaps my hide for some reason.

OK, this is not a rant against fancy. I can actually whip up a mean spicy peanut sauce and I have garlic aoili and Sriracha in my fridge. I like me some fancy.

I just believe we should appreciate our Nilla Wafers too.