Tag Archives: cleaning



Spring is here at long giddy last, and after spending the last few weeks sick as a dog (yes, again), it’s a joy to actually be getting excited about getting a handle on things again.

Stage 1 is the yard and gardens.  This actually started at the end of February when I rigged up my grow system in the basement from a metal shelf on the back porch.


Two shop lights, 4 natural light bulbs, a timer and two S hooks and I was in business for seed starting.  I started lettuce, onions and 3 kinds of tomatoes.


Then I got sick and couldn’t remember to water them.  So yeah, another year of crappy starting under my belt.  I’m still going to start Brussels sprouts and try again with the tomatoes and peppers.  At this point the rest can just go straight into the garden.

Getting the shelf off the back porch, though, meant opening up a lot of space back there.  Okay, well, first it meant a big mess.  That shelf had been stuffed full of all kinds of junk: broken toys, half used building supplies, stuff the kids had scrounged, just junk.  Morgan and I filled 3 contractor bags just clearing that off, but we left a lot of stuff on the floor.  And too much of that junk had migrated into the yard as well.  So last Sunday, we all took about an hour and a half and just cleaned up the STUFF in the yard.  Put the wagons away, junked all the freeze-shattered plastic, raked all the wind-blown trash out of the rose bed, put tools away, folded up the tarp.  We filled the dumpster again (at this point our trash guys must hate us).  Got all the junk off the back porch as well and gave it a good sweeping.  No more having to squeeze out the back door to get into the yard.  Once again, just cleaning a space makes it feel that much more inviting.  I also scrubbed out the front flower bed, getting out all the old mulch and trash and weeds to reveal the daffodil and iris leaves starting to push up for the new season.  There’s still quite a bit of clay in the grass from when we dug up the front walk, so I’ll throw some grass seed (and maybe some ground thyme) to cover that over.  So we aren’t entirely the shame of the neighborhood anymore!

This weekend, I need to start rebuilding the garden beds for the season.  I think I’m going to cheat and buy soilless mix for the grow boxes, but I need to make the Mel’s Mix for the raised beds by hand.  I need too much fill!  I’m also going to recruit the kids to start cleaning and repairing the shed.  The main doors are falling off, so we’ll replace the hinges on those, pack up a bunch more trash and donate a couple of bikes, organize the tools and hopefully just make everything more accessible.  Once that’s done, I want to paint it, although I need rubberized paint because it’s currently got a very crumbly coat of lead paint on it.  Once that’s done, I need to design a bike shed addition for the house side, something that we can get in and out of easily but that we can lock the bikes up in AND lock the door of.  My architect skills aren’t great, though, so this could be an adventure.  Expect pictures!

Another “Is too much” post

Another “Is too much” post

Another gap.  ::glares at the calendar::  I think I’m going to have to make February a Blog Every Day month just to get back in the groove.  But today, let me summarize.

1. The kids are back in school, but not without changes.  I’ve had to pull Hero from color guard, as she’s continued to fail several of her classes.  I feel bad, because I know it’s the ADHD finally rearing its ugly head, but I couldn’t not do anything, either (pardon the double negative).  Three practices a week was just too much of a time commitment, and I couldn’t pull her from Odyssey of the Mind, as that would have punished the whole team and not just her.  But that situation resolved itself as well.  The OM higher-ups had changed the parameters of the challenge the team was working on three months in, invalidating all the work the kids had been doing.  Three of their members had quit the team, leaving them at the minimum participants allowed (which was why I couldn’t pull Hero), and they were demoralized and no longer committed.  After much soul searching on their part, they decided to disband the team for this year.  I think it was a relief for all of them, although their coach was heartbroken.  Now we just have to focus on getting Hero back on track.  I’m getting her tested with the school and am trying to get an appointment for her at CHOP to be formally diagnosed as ADHD.  I’m really torn about medicating her, but we may have to at least for a little while while we work with developing other coping skills.  None of the tools we’re trying to put in place for her right now are taking, and it may just be that she’s too out of control to internalize them.  But hopefully we can get her through the year and by fall have her back on track.

2.  The house has gotten a bit out of control.  Christmas took the card system right off the table and I’ve had a hard time getting it back.  I suspect I’m going to have to start it from scratch, pull all the cards and re-introduce them like I did when I started.  Which still won’t be as hard as it was the first time around.  It’s not that the house is bad.  It’s just not where it was.  There are piles everywhere, small piles, but piles nonetheless.  The dishes aren’t getting done nightly, which means the counters and floor aren’t getting done regularly and the floor needs a mopping.  I can’t remember who’s turn it is to get their bed linens washed (probably mine).  I just need to…start clean.  Give myself permission.  Yup, that’s it.  This weekend I’m pulling all the cards, sorting them by room and starting from scratch.  Hell, I’ll do it today.  The living room won’t take that long to get back on track.  Can do the dining room Wednesday and Thursday, then the kitchen and bathroom this weekend.  Yup, that’s a plan.  Thanks, guys!

3.  I’m behind on Sleepy Hollow and Elementary, but OMG are you guys watching Agent Carter?  WHY NOT???  It’s encapsulating every perfect thing about feminism and equality and heroism and glam and SHE BEAT A GUY UP WITH A FUCKING STAPLER!!!  I’m actually trying out power lipsticks thanks to this show.  You have to watch it.  Honestly, it’s such an utter joy.  And I may have a tiny little crush on Hayley Atwell..

4.  Hrm.  I thought I had a 4, but maybe not.  Life hasn’t been THAT exciting, which isn’t a bad thing.

5. OH!!  I sold my loom!  This is a kind of sad thing, because I wanted to learn more weaving, but I just didn’t love it enough, and it was taking up a lot of space in the house, which as you know I don’t have as much of as I’d like.  So I put it up on Ravelry and an 83 year old former Marine from Pittsburgh bought it!  Nikki and I drove out to Harrisburg with it last weekend to swap with him, and he was just the nicest guy.  I know the loom is going to a good home where it will be well used.  And I got $400 out of it, so that’s a good thing!  Still keeping an eye out for a cheap drum carder or hand cards, though.

So, can she stay current?  Stick around to find out!

Breaking Bread

Breaking Bread

So, Sunday was bread day.

It got a little…over the top.

But it started with cleaning.  Hero had Odyssey of the Mind and Morgan had a game that afternoon, so the last push on the playroom had to be that morning.  And surprisingly, it didn’t take that long.  Maybe an hour, hour and a half to get the floor all picked up, donations put aside and trash out.  The back part of the room is still stacked with stuff, but it’s tidy now.  Much of that is good storage boxes that I didn’t want to get rid of until I had a better sense of what we needed to store, so I can start getting rid of those now.

Because, guys, that’s it.  That’s my masterlist all but done.  Now it’s the narrow-focus, target specific cleaning/organizing jobs.  All those weird little spaces that everyone has where things collect until you know what to do with them.  That’s where I’m at.  Time to revist all my lists.  Although I have to get index cards made up for the playroom now.

I had just enough time before taking Hero to OM to throw together the first batch of dough.  The infamous cinnamon roll dough.


Not a complicated recipe, but not very detailed.  Which is part of why I have had so much trouble with it over the years.  But knowing what I do now, I set to work.  I have to ask Mom if I’m supposed to cream the sugar and shortening before I start adding things, but it seemed to turn out well with a little tweaking for moisture content.


Stuck that in the oven and then ran Hero over to her meeting.  Got back and started the oatmeal dough recipe, as that was also a double rise dough.  Finished that just in time to check the cinnamon roll rise.


I think it liked it.  Punched that down and added the oatmeal dough to the oven for it’s first rise.  Then on to the cornmeal dough.


Things got moving fast at this point, so I forgot to take many pictures.  The cinnamon roll dough was ready to go to work by the time I got the cornmeal dough done, so I knocked it down, cut it in half and realized I didn’t know how thick to roll it out to (and Mom didn’t answer her phone).  My cutting board is about 10″x14″, so I rolled the first half out to that size, buttered it (brushing the butter on instead of pouring it on so as not to get it too thick) and then I used a fine strainer to put the sugar and cinnamon on to get an even layer that also wasn’t too thick.  I got two nice pans and a pie plate with some to have for dinner that night as my test subject.  They got put aside for their last rise.

Then I knocked down the oatmeal dough and started on the cornmeal rolls, which only needed one rise.  I wanted to do something different with those, so I decided to try cloverleaf rolls with them.  So I hunked up the dough, rolled it out, cut it into 1″ pieces, rolled them into balls, dipped them in the leftover butter from the cinnamon rolls and dropped them into greased muffin tins.  Took all three of my 12 count tins plus a 6 count that we’d have with dinner that night.  Those got set aside to rise.  Finally the oatmeal dough was ready, so I took that out and preheated the oven.

The oatmeal dough got yet a different treatment.  I quartered that, divided each quarter into thirds and then rolled each third into a snake, which I then braided.  Then with my bench knife I hunked each braid into 6-8 pieces, pinched the ends off and put them on a parchement lined cookie sheet.  As an afterthought, I think I didn’t roll each piece thin enough, and I think the oatmeal dough was too coarse for this application.  I should probably have switched with oatmeal and cornmeal dough applications and would have had better results.  But they’re still interesting!

The baking plan was to par-bake everything and then freeze it, to be finished off the day of.  Unfortunately, I forgot to lower the heat of the oven to account for my darker muffin tins.  So the cinnamon rolls came out as planned (although I think I rolled them a bit too thin.  I blame Mom.), but the cornmeal rolls cooked all the way through and one of the pans all had dark bottoms.  *sigh*  The batch in the aluminum pan cooked as intended, though, so those will at least be okay.  And the braided rolls came out exactly as intended, ready to be baked off as needed.  Anything I don’t use for Thanksgiving will make interesting sandwich rolls.

The production in all its glory:


That’s a lot of bread for 9 people.  But I know the cinnamon rolls won’t make it through dinner.  I’ll probably have to make another batch for soup night.  Darn.

Got those packed away in the freezer, cleaned up the kitchen, and had just enough time to throw together pie crust dough before I had to get Hero.  I decided to try Ina Garten’s pie crust recipe in the food processor.  Meh.  Well, so far.  It’s still in the fridge, so we’ll see what happens when I roll it out.  As with most pie crust recipes, it was too dry, but I’d learned the trick for dry pastry dough.  Vodka.  It gives you the liquid you need in making the dough, but evaporates in the baking so it doesn’t leave your pie crust flat.  Good thing, too, because I ended up using about twice the amount of liquid called for.  I think next year I’ll go back to my old Good Housekeeping recipe and the hand pastry blender.  But tis done, and I have two batches of dough wrapped in plastic wrap and in the fridge for tonight.  Tonight will be pies and turkey brining.  In between dragging Hero hither and yon.  Again.

But I got a call from Gabe this morning.  The weather forecast is calling for 12 inches of snow up their way on Wednesday night.  He’s not sure they’re going to be able to make it down.  Since we’re supposed to get 3-5″ (or a dusting, depending on who you listen to), now I’m panicking that my plans for Gabe to help me do the front walk should maybe get moved up.  It’s 70 freakin’ degrees here right now, and it will be warm tomorrow as well.  With some focus and quick work, Morgan and I could get the sidewalk dug tonight, maybe even get the whole thing laid while the ground is still soft.  Because it’s going back down to lots of cold weather after that.  And I can do the pies on Wednesday, since I’m home all day for exactly this purpose.  And since the house is mostly clean, I don’t have to do that then, so…

Morgan’s not going to be happy…

What are you talking about?

What are you talking about?

I’m sure some people come to this blog and think, “I thought this was a blog about not caring what other people think? Well, with all this housework, YOU sure seem to care an awful lot!”

Actually, no, I don’t.

I hate housework.  Despise it.  Anyone who knows me is probably really confused reading this blog and wondering who I am and where the real me is.  And despite what it looks like, that’s still true.  If there was any way to avoid it, I would.  But I can’t.  I’m the only adult in this house (well, sort of.  Morgan still counts as a kid, never mind that he’ll be 20 in 4 months), so it’s my responsibility to make sure it gets done.  But there’s a more significant reason.

All that clutter wears you down.

I want to be creative, but I can’t when I’m surrounded by mess.  Not only does it make my world feel dingy and unloved, it leaves me constantly aware of all of the things that I should be doing rather than what I’m passionate about.  It’s an anchor dragging me down.  And too much of it wasn’t even an anchor I made.  Taking these few months to make my environment cleaner, more inviting and less overwhelming is slowly taking off those anchors.  Shedding the weight of the unimportant, I’m left only with the significant. And then by maintaining it, I’m giving myself more time in the long run to do the things I love.  When it takes me 10 minutes to clean the dining room instead of three hours, only to have it dirty again as soon as I turn around like it used to, I feel lighter, more energized.  And it’s easier to nail the kid making the mess.

Having three ADHD kids has also helped with this.  They’re all really good at distracting themselves when they don’t want to work.  With all the clutter around, that’s pretty easy to do.  But when the physical clutter is gone, there’s nothing to get their hands on, and by clearing away the visual clutter, there’s less staring pointlessly out into space.  I don’t know if it’s helping yet, but that’s certainly the theory, and has been recommended by a number of specialists.

And in some ways, all this cleaning is helping me tap into my creativity again, whether it’s thinking about how something can be reused to be worth hanging onto or how to make something plain more interesting.  Today I came up with the idea of using old picture frames and Command velcro hanging strips to mount all different kinds of old picture frames on the fronts of my kitchen cabinets to make them more interesting.  I had one interesting old frame in the basement, and for $10 more I got a dozen more at the thrift store.  I’ll post pictures when it’s done.

And it’s catching.  Slowly, but definitely.  Hero asked me today, “It’s my turn to get my bedding washed next week, right?”  “Yup.”  “Good, because my comforter is starting to smell and I got pink hairspray on my sheets.” (You’re the one who asked for white, kiddo.)  Now, bear in mind that until now I washed their stuff once, maybe twice A YEAR, (Yes, I know.) and it never seemed to bother her.  But now that I have the expectation of tidiness, it’s starting to rub off on them.  Hopefully that will start to extend to keeping their rooms clean.

So today we cleaned the pantry/laundry room.  It took forever to shovel out the rabbit litter and move all the heavy appliances, and I had to run out to Lowe’s at one point for a new dryer vent, as the old one had basically disintegrated, but now it’s tidy, the pantry is organized so I can see what I have, and I can keep up with it.  It’s not perfect by any means.  It needs a new floor (It has the same linoleum that the kitchen did, and in about the same shape), and it could use a good coat of paint.  But it’s functional again, which is all that I can ask of it.  For now.

But most importantly, it’s not weighing on my mind anymore.  It’s done, and it can stay done.  And now I can go to my spinning without feeling like there’s something else I should be doing instead.

Well, there’s the playroom.  But that’s next week’s project.

Fine Dining

Fine Dining

Every other weekend brings a new project, mostly because that’s when I get paid and so can afford the bits and bobs I need for whatever I’m working on.  The last week and a half or so has been the dining room.

dining room

Look at the wallpaper, not the person!

The wallpaper in this room has been there since we moved in sixteen years ago.  Even then, it was already coming up at the edges, and from day one, the plan had always been to take down at least some of it and paint the walls (my mother hates that wallpaper!).  But I’ve lived in old houses my whole life.  I know the perils that lurk beneath a seemingly innocent layer of wallpaper.  One layer becomes two becomes twelve, and god knows what state the plaster will be in when you finally get down to it, if you can.  So we put it off. Endlessly.  Hid it behind large pieces of furniture.  Basically just accepted that it was what it was, and other things were more important.  Even when the rabbit started pulling strips of it off, we did nothing except joke about letting him do the whole thing.

Then I started cleaning.  And things didn’t seem so overwhelming.  To the point where living with it was more depressing than not doing anything about it.  I knew I wanted it painted, so in an act of desperation, I pulled a piece of the wallpaper down.  And then another.  I let Xander try.  Hero had a go.  Morgan came down for a drink, and the next thing we knew…

So far, so good.  It seemed to be peelable vinyl paper, meaning the surface layer came off really easily, leaving just a paper backing.  And it *seemed* to be drywall or something underneath, not an infinite loop of more and more paper that was the only thing holding the house up.  I did research on stripping paper.  I didn’t have any money yet, and was itching to get started, but I did have a spray bottle and a lot of vinegar, so I figured I’d give that a shot.  50/50 mix of vinegar and warm water.  The paper came off like BUTTER.  No problems whatsoever, except in the angles of the bay window that had rough plaster spots.  And the people we’d bought the house from, bless their hearts, had obviously stripped it all before, as there was a tidy coat of latex primer underneath.  No surprises (unless you count that one!)  In fact, I think the primer may have been the wallpaper’s downfall.  I suspect that, since they used a high gloss paint, the wallpaper glue just couldn’t get a good enough grip and started coming up at the edges right away.  But it meant that not only was the stripping easier, I would not have to prime 3 (well, 5 if you’re being pedantic) of the walls!

So the plan was to strip one wall a night, which, as it was Monday, meant that I would have it all down by Thursday and could start on the priming on Friday.  I used a step stool and an old oak dresser as my ladder and got going, and by the end of that first night, about an hour and a half of work, I had a wall and a half done.  Seriously, that fast.  The kids hadn’t even finished pulling the surface paper!  So we started moving out the furniture from the walls, and I chased them around the room.  Xander and I were even peeling paper before school one morning!  (Morgan wins the prize for being able to pull one whole sheet down in one piece. He was very proud!)  By Wednesday, everything was peeled and scraped, and the minimum of required cleaning had been done.  Some of that furniture hadn’t been moved in ten years, and OMG the dust!  We also got rid of some extraneous wiring, which made ongoing cleaning easier as well.


Tux helped.


Then it was time to decide on colors.

I knew the basics.  I wanted to carry on the theme of the old wallpaper, with one dark red accent wall and the rest in a neutral khaki color.  I’d started bringing home samples as soon as we started pulling the paper, and by Wednesday we had found the red we wanted (Behr’s Vintage Merlot, if you’re curious).  The neutral was much more elusive.  We’d settled on three that we kind of liked, so I got samples of all of them and painted big swatches on the wall where they’d get good sunlight.  We hemmed and hawed for three days.  One was too green, but still kind of nice.  One was too dark.  One wasn’t brown enough.  In the meantime, I started taping.  I taped everything (or thought I did).  I even got clever and bought pre-taped dropcloth.  Basically it’s blue tape with a folded piece of plastic attached.  You tape it along the baseboard, and then pull out the plastic.  Voila!  Instant 2-3 foot dropcloth!  And meanwhile, we still debated the wall color. It went on like that until Friday afternoon when I surrendered and went with the medium not green one (Jute).  Now, bear in mind, it’s Halloween.  In the midst of buying candy and snacks and cider, I’m out buying paint and supplies.  I had most of the supplies I needed at home, but since I was getting two gallons of paint and wanted consistent color, I had to get a 5 gallon bucket to mix it in and a couple of extra things.

It was cold that day, and was going to be damp and rainy all weekend.  So, since the house was now all sealed up and I’d changed the furnace filter, I decided at long last to turn the heat on for the year.  Except…it didn’t come on.  I cranked up the thremostat.  Nothing.  Checked all the switches.  Nope.  Swore a little. Why won’t that help?  No heat.  Fine.  A problem I would deal with another day.  But it was going to slow down my painting as I waited for it to dry.  Dammit, Murphy.

Got home with my paint supplies, made dinner, put snacks out for Hero and her friends, put Morgan on the door and then got to work.  First up went the tinted primer for the red wall.  It went on PINK.  I mean really pink.


Everyone who came through commented on how pink it was.  “Don’t worry, it’s just the primer.  The actual paint is red.”  “If you say so, mom.”  That went up pretty fast, and then I started on the neutral.  What a difference.  It was a little more yellow than I would have liked, but compared to what had been there, it looked clean and fresh and took me less than an hour and a half to get the first coat up on the whole thing.


By the time the kids were back from trick or treating, the deed was done.  Which was a good thing.  I was talking to the parents of one of Hero’s friends about it and complained about how since the furnace wasn’t working, it would take forever to dry.  “I’ve done furnace work,” he says, “would you like me to take a look?”  “YES.”  So he does, and can’t find anything wrong with it, although he does comment that he can’t smell any gas in it.  Ugh.  So I figure I’ll call the gas company the next day.  Then I remember that while I was stripping the walls, some of the vinegar water ran down the wall into the thermostat, and the whole display had gone out.  I’d let it dry out and replaced the batteries, which seemed to revive it but maybe…  I resolved to try that first.

But first, I had to work on Saturday.  I still work occasionally as a sub at the Y.  It doesn’t pay much, but it does keep my free membership active, so it’s worth doing a shift or two a month.  In this case, though, I was resenting it because I wanted to be painting, not working a 9-4 shift.  Ah well.  But I did get up early enough to put on second coats.  That was all the neutral walls needed, and went up in about 20 minutes.  The primer on the red wall looked patchy, so rather than start the red, I did a second coat of primer, which in the end I was glad I did.  Finished at 8:50 and raced off to waste the day.  I stopped at Home Depot on the way home and picked up the new thermostat and a new light fixture for the third floor stairwell, so that light would finally have a cover and not clock people in the head every time they went through.  Had to make dinner when I got home, but as soon as that was done, I dove into the red.  Well, first I got smart and taped the ceiling line and the neutral edges.  Have I mentioned that I’m a messy painter?  Yeah, I should have thought from the beginning about taping the ceiling line.  There were already little spots and streaks of color on the ceiling all around the room, but I hated to think what I would do with red on white.  And I certainly didn’t want to get it on the neutral!  So from now on, when I paint, I tape the ceiling.  Only I’ll do it in a 6″ wide strip next time.  3 didn’t quite cut it…


The first touches of red were gorgeous, but a part of my heart clenched that it was a bit…purple.


Never mind, I was committed at that point, so on it went.  Nice and thick and dark.  And patchy.  Oh yeah, this was going to need more coats.  The only question was how many.  Once that was done, I tried to install the new thermostat.  Turned off the power at the fuse box, hammered in the wall anchors, put in the batteries, inserted wire A in slot B, turned it on and…HEAT!! I know it’s not that difficult of a home repair, but I felt so virtuous for having done it myself!  And OMG the heat felt good.  Got that all done and started the clean up for the neutral walls, cutting off tape, doing little touch ups and the like.  I had seriously overestimated how much paint I was going to need, as I have a whole gallon left.  Not sure what I’m going to do with it.  Maybe paint the third floor stairwell with it.  That desperately needs paint of some kind.

I did coat 2 of the red Sunday morning, which looked pretty good.  But not perfect.  Then I had to take Morgan into the city for a school trip to the Academy of Fine Arts, so I met Nikki and we went to Reading Terminal Market.  I love that place when I go in with a goal.  But I’m not as crazy about it for browsing.  Too crowded.  But the smells were amazing.  We stopped for lunch at my favorite Mexican place, and then we stopped at the Farm Fare stand where I scored a 15 lb. Blue Hubbard squash for $9.  (I’ll save the heritage of the Blue Hubbard for another post)  Hadn’t heard from Morgan yet, so we went back to Nikki’s where I got to oogle her gorgeous new kitchen and where Skye actually deigned to say hello to me.  Morgan met us there, and I tried to talk Nikki into coming home with us without success, so by 2 we were on our way home again.  I changed back into my paint clothes (I’d had to designate paint grubbies, as I didn’t have any due to the weightloss) and got on to coat number 3.

Three is a magic number.

It looked perfect.  No white patches, everything even and glossy, just perfect.  Then Eric showed me how to install the light fixture (I let him do most of the work, as it was at the top of a staircase and he didn’t need a ladder.  I’ll do the next one.), found out we needed some longer bolts to attach it to the ceiling, and I went to get Hero from Odyssey of the Mind.  We stopped at Lowe’s on the way home and got the bolts and a new switch plate, plus one to cover the gaping hole in the kitchen wall, and then back home for dinner and clean-up.

I didn’t start putting the furniture back until last night.  If there was one thing I knew that room needed, it was a mopping, especially under where the furniture went.  But the first mopping told me that that wasn’t going to be enough.  So when I got home from work, I got a bucket of hot, soapy water, a scrub brush and a roll of paper towels and got down on my knees.  It was the right decision.  I’d scrub a section, then wipe it dry with the paper towels, and they’d come up black.  Two passes with the brush got it to acceptable levels.  I just did the sections where the furniture was going back, which took me about an hour, but in the end I think it will be worth it.  Pointed out all the milk splashes to Xander (my chief culprit in that area) and told him if I found them again, HE would be the one on his knees.  Next up, I vacuumed all the dust off the back of the computer cabinet and then purged the inside.  Filled another constructor trash bag with stuff and reclaimed two more power strips.  Nicely organized now!  Morgan and I got that back in its corner, and I vacuumed the other three bookshelves, cleaned the tops and got them back in place, including purging the last one that I hadn’t done already (another trash bag full.)  Last dust of the china cabinet and all was back in place.  Morgan was astonished at how much room there was, although to be fair, the dining room table still isn’t in.  I need to get it cleared off first.  I also still have to mount the folding table and the “mantle” shelf on the red wall between the bookcases, but I hope to get that done tonight.  Plus I scored 4 antique Windsor chairs that have been living in my car since Friday.  I can’t wait to get them in as well.

Here it is, all but done.


Next up: NO BIG PROJECTS.  I need to spend the next few weeks getting back on track with the cleaning routines and getting ready to host Thanksgiving (although all this is making me feel much better about that.)  I am purging and cleaning the fridge this week, and this weekend will be purging and organizing the pantry.  I WILL NOT LAY NEW TILE although I may have enough left from the kitchen floor to…NO!  Then Gabe wants to help me with a project while he’s here, so I think we’ll be replacing the front walk to make shovelling easier this winter.  We’ll see what the weather holds for that weekend, though.  First I have to get the living room clean.  Again.

Oh, and another bonus of doing this?  My chore list is almost all done!


Getting to the bottom

Getting to the bottom

So, the saga of the basement…


As I’ve said before, we live in an old house.  That means a stone basement with low ceilings and a tendency to take on water.  Unfortunately, in the sixteen years we’ve lived here, it’s taken on more than that.  A whole lot of junk.  In addition to the somewhat useful stuff stored down there, the Ex was a bit of a packrat, so there was a lot of not so useful stuff as well.  It had gotten to the point many moons ago that I just refused to go down there.  You couldn’t move for all the clutter.  I dreaded any time a repair person had to come in, as I had no idea if they could get to whatever they needed.

And then the plumbing disaster hit.

About two years ago now, as I was dealing with a kidney stone and going through the initial stages of my breast cancer diagnosis, the sewage outflow pipe in the basement collapsed.  As in fell off where it came down from the bathroom and kitchen to take the right turn out to the sewer.  I didn’t realize it for quite some time.  Oh, I’d smelled something garbage-y, but the basement never registered, mostly because I was in denial I had one.  But four inches of standing sewage does finally make an impression.  Thankfully my homeowners insurance covered the clean-up, and in the process, the cleaning crew got rid of a lot of the crap that was down there.  It was liberating, but also horrifying to realize how much there still was.  I vowed I was going to get rid of the rest of it, but my cancer therapy kind of put the kaibosh on doing anything for a long time.  But now that I’m cancer free and 100 pounds lighter, and with the job change that actually gave me my weekends to get stuff done, I decided it was time.  Just an hour a weekend, which I would drag Morgan into helping me with.

To start, it was bad.  We went down just to take a look and come up with a strategy.  But there was a box of construction trash bags down there that the cleaning guys had left, so we just started shoving stuff into it.  By the end of that hour, we had filled 12 huge trash bags with all kinds of crap and could get from the stairs to the fuse box and the bulkhead doors without killing ourselves.  The ex came over, and I told him what we were doing, and that if there was anything down there that he wanted, he needed to get it now.  The next day, he had strewn stuff all over the area we’d just cleaned while looking for stuff he wanted to take, which in the end was fine, as it made it easier for us to bag the rest of it.  Another 8 bags went out, plus an old air conditioner.  There was mold and mildew on everything, both from the flood and from the general dampness of the place.  I did find some treasures, like a bag full of ceramic drawer pulls, but for the most part it was stuff that either wasn’t useful or was too damaged to be useful any more.  When we finished, well, it wasn’t good, but it was definitely better.  I could get to the furnace now, and the back, relatively dry part of the basement where the (unused) oil tank lives.  And we’d cleared the stairs, so I now had a place to store brooms and mops neatly.  It felt less overwhelming.

That was about a month ago.  Today was the first chance I had to get back down there.  I dragged Xander into being my helper this time.  First I had to vacuum up the standing water that had leeched in around the furnace (which is thankfully up on blocks), and then I started on the last of the piles in the main area.  4 more bags of trash, and some miscellaneous construction remains.  The saddest loss was a nice, new, in-box light fixture that had deteriorated so badly that the box had all but vanished and the fixture itself was almost blackened.  I wouldn’t have trusted the wiring on it, so it went into the trash with the rest.  But I did find two treasures:  A wall mounted spice cabinet with a neat how-to chart on the front, and the old pewter coffee pot from my parents’ coffee service.  Ever since I accidentally melted the matching teapot at Thanksgiving dinner about 17 years ago, I’ve wanted to finish the job and melt the coffee pot down to make jewelry for my siblings and I.  But the pot had gone missing, so I’d given up on that.  So yay!

There’s still quite a bit to do, though.  The oil room needs to be cleaned out and reorganized so that I can start storing my canning and “root cellar” stock in there, and the coal chute area need cleaning.  There’s quite a bit of furniture in there, but because of the water, it’s all rotted at the bottom.  So another heavy hauling day.

But for now, I’m satisfied.  The floor is swept, the water is managed, I changed the air filter on the furnace for the first time in three years, and we’re even starting to get the cobwebs under control.  I don’t feel like the weight of all that accumulated stuff is dragging me down anymore.  I can find things.

You can’t know how good that feels.

The rest of the weekend

The rest of the weekend

I stayed in bed until about 8, and then got to work on setting everything to rights.  I needed things back where they belonged so I could get back to my routines.  I was feeling the clutter on the table and the dishes in the sink and needed them gone!  Plus two of the kids were disappearing for the day again, Morgan to a friend’s house and Hero to Odyssey of the Mind practice, so I had to make sure they could get THEIR chores done.  I got all the winter gear purged, including 4 coats going in the donation pile, all the cookbooks back, the dining room table back in place, floors swept and vacuumed (and I also learned that a vacuum is a great tool in combatting dust even in a room with wooden floors.  Doh!), order, order, order!  By the time I had to start running kids around, things were good again, and I had a start on my weekly jobs.

While Morgan and Hero were off with their lives, Xander and I took an hour and put all the planters in the garden to bed.  We dumped them all in the compost (they were very marshy, so yeah, the soil wasn’t draining well), hosed them down good and put them aside to dry.  They’ll go in the shed today when I get home, ready for a better attempt next year.  We dumped the potatoes as well.  I was disappointed in the haul, but that was entirely my fault, and I won’t use straw for hilling next year.  Those are also hosed out and drying as well.  And we got most of the garden hardware put away.  I still have to pull the drying beans and put in a fall/winter garden, but that may or may not happen.  I’m not too fussed.  And I have to get the fig tree planted, but our shovel has vanished.

Finally Nikki and I were able to watch Doctor Who, albeit via Skype.  But afterwards, I just couldn’t even think coherently, so I crashed for a nap.  Or tried to.  I was still too keyed up from all the work to switch off.  All day, no matter what room I went into, I had to clean something, put something away, dust something, SOMETHING.  It was total compulsion.  When I started scrubbing the wall, I knew I was losing it.  That was the kids’ job!  Not to say it didn’t need it.  Badly.  But I just had to stop.  So Xander and I went to the grocery store to get dinner, and then out to pick up Morgan.  On the way back, we stopped at one of the local destination farms to pick up apple cider and cider donuts.  That’s the best thing about fall, and even though it is 80 degrees out, it is still fall.  And yes, I did have donuts.  I had two, in fact.  And they didn’t make me sick.  Barely.  I could never do that on a regular basis (the whole point of the surgery), but it’s good to know that I can do it occasionally.  And it didn’t hurt me, as I was down to 160 when I stepped on the scale.

We had a good dinner, I nagged everyone into putting their dishes in the dishwasher and taking their showers, and then I crashed.  Tried to hang out with Nikki online for a bit, but nope, just not happening.  I ended up in bed with my tablet and Minecraft.  I was worried I still wouldn’t sleep, but I guess the worst of the obsession had passed.  I had a good solid sleep, and although I still ache like mad and am still a bit brain-dead, it was all worth it.

Now we’re into a week of many new and disruptive things.  If everyone has their chores and homework done, we’re going to try going to the 4H Archery group tonight.  I have Xander’s IEP review on Thursday, which is always fun (not), and we’re getting Morgan in the swing of his new English class, which started on Thursday.

Not much time to enjoy my new kitchen!


Out of my mind.

Out of my mind.

I think with all this cleaning, I may have finally snapped.

Nothing is perfect, but it’s all better.  Calmer.  Less overwhelming.  I still have a lot of work to do, but for the most part that’s all deeper cleaning stuff.  The kids’ floors are clean, the living room and dining room are swept, the table is clear every night and the kitchen sink and counters are always clear.  It’s even becoming ingrained already.  I get twitchy if I can’t get the sink and counters wiped before I go upstairs every night.  I wasn’t able to do anything extra yesterday because of all the running around with the kids I had to do.  It’s a good feeling.

But it’s dangerous.

See, cleaning isn’t going to help all that’s ailing in my kitchen.

20140925_070132     20140925_070208

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Notice something wrong in those pictures?  Yeah, aside from the really hideous cabinetry (I’m working on that).  The linoleum.  This is OLD linoleum.  Like, paper linoleum. at least 50 years old.  It’s worn, and dirty, and you can see where the rabbit has gotten his nasty, sharp, pointy teeth into it and ripped up whole sections.  It’s ugly, it’s impossible to take care of and it needs to get replaced.

I bought new peel and stick linoleum last week.

Sears was having a great sale, so I got enough to cover the whole floor for under $100.  But I knew it was going to take a couple of weeks to get the kitchen in shape enough to do it.  Except…  Well, the worst is done.  Sort of.  I need to pull out the corner cabinet to clean under/behind it, and I have to pull out the fridge to do the same.  But if I have to move them anyway…

The nail in the coffin?  The kids are going to be gone this weekend.  Their father’s family is in town, and while the little kids are off school today and can go visit, Morgan has classes, including the first meeting of his English class which he absolutely can’t miss.  So Eric is taking them all down to Delaware to his cousin’s house on Saturday, leaving me all alone in the house to do whatever I want.  Which is apparently going to be re-laying the kitchen floor.

Morgan and I are going to pull out the fridge and corner cabinet tonight when he gets done with classes, which will give me a chance to sweep and possibly dust (although possibly not).  Then tomorrow he only has one class in the morning, so he’s going to start the demolition, which will let me vacuum everything really well.  Thankfully Nikki, bribed with many good meals, is going to come up on Saturday and help me with the peeling and sticking, so hopefully by the time the kids get back, we’ll have a brand new kitchen.

Well, except for the cabinets.  And the ceiling.  But that’s next.

If you don’t hear back from me by Sunday, tell my mother I loved her…

Whistle while you work…

Whistle while you work…

Snow White can bite me.

Today was a long, hard but incredibly productive day.  I went into it with the plan to clean the front hall top to bottom, and it just kept going.  Like whoa.

Got up about 8:30, intending to get right to work, and ended up doing a blog post instead.  Which, yay.  Got the kids up (because if I was cleaning, so were they, dammit), and actually cooked breakfast for a change.  Just scrambled eggs, but a damn sight better than the protein bars I usually have.  Not as good as the cinnamon bagels the kids had, though.  I miss bagels.  In between bites, I started on the hall.


(yes, I know it needs repainting.  We had a plaster disaster about six years ago and never got around to it.  It’s on the other list.)

Now, bear in mind that this is not a large space, which is why I took it on for my first project.  It would give me a chance to practice all the cleaning skills and get a job complete, which would hopefully keep me motivated to keep going.  Success breeds success, right?  It took me about an hour and a half, but I did everything from the cobwebs on the ceiling to the dust in the vent.  I scrubbed the front door and even detailed parts of it with Q tips.  All the glass got polished, and yes, I even shined the doorknobs.  Took down the mantle, mirrors and house guardian and dusted them well after I washed their wall.  Wet dusted all the woodwork, the baseboards, everything, and then sprayed and mopped the floor.  the only thing that didn’t get done to my satisfaction was scrubbing the walls, as I didn’t have any magic erasers and those walls bore sixteen years of grime.  You can kind of see the line where I finished on the left hand wall right at the first step on the stairs.  I did it all, even stuff I hadn’t intended, like the exterior door and sweeping the porch.

I was definitely jazzed at that point, but I sat down to write out my cleaning cards.  My plan was to make cards as I did each job the first time so it would immediately go into rotation.  So I made all the front hall cards.  I planned to do the upstairs hall this afternoon.  So I made all the upstairs hall cards.  I had printed out a great tool for knowing when to clean what, so I made those cards.  I made cards for the other jobs I’d already done.  In the end, I’d made most of my cards for the major rooms in the house.  More than half of them are in holding until I get those jobs done, but they’re there and ready to go into rotation.

I was interrupted briefly by a lady coming by for a Freecycle pick-up.  I had a bunch of protein powders and drinks that I couldn’t stomach anymore that were taking up space in my kitchen, but I couldn’t stand the thought of trashing them.  The unflavored one was practically new!  So I posted them on Freecycle on Monday.  If you’ve never heard of Freecycle, you should definitely check it out.  People post stuff they have to give away, or post requests for things they need.  It has to be given away.  You aren’t allowed to charge or even barter.  You can find some real treasures, though.  I scored Nikki a full brewing set-up last week from some poor guy who’d been diagnosed with celiac and had to give up beer.  My powders had been listed for almost a week, so I figured today I would trash them, when lo and behold, this morning I had an email from someone who wanted them.  She came by around 11:30 and we chatted briefly and got her loaded up, then I went back in the house to admire my lovely, empty storage table.  Then wrote up a bunch more cards.

At that point, I had to take a break to take the kids to the 4H open house.  We were hoping the Archery group would have a table, as both kids have been wanting to try that for a while, but I never had any luck contacting them.  No joy, although there was information and a sign-up sheet at the info table, so we grabbed that.  And Hero got information on the leadership council and the senior exchange group.  In the course of half an hour, I went from having kids in one activity to having them in five (a robotics club is starting up at the high school that Xander is going to check out.)  Looks like I’ll be getting more dedicated knitting/writing time. After that we ran to the office supply store for more index card dividers, and then to the grocery store for magic erasers.  As one does.

It was after three when we got home, but I was determined to get more stuff done.  Morgan had cleaned the bathroom and changed out the shower liner while we were gone, but I went back in and started gutting the place.


Stripped all the crap off the shelves and wet dusted them, purged the medicine cabinet, purged and organized the drawers in the sink cabinet (we now have a first aid drawer), cleaned out under the sink (because ugh.), disinfected the toiled and scrubbed two of the walls and the door.  And cleaned the switch plate.  Tomorrow I do the tub and the rest of the walls.  Just showed Nikki the picture, and she said, “That’s the cleanest I’ve ever seen your bathroom.” Which is true, and a sad statement on my cleaning habits.

I also did get started on the upstairs hall, but that consisted of cleaning the floor, sweeping it good, and starting to scrub one horrific wall before I gave up.  I just didn’t have it in me to do more today.  So I went downstairs to make dinner.  Where I first disinfected all the kitchen counters, because that was a required weekly job that was already in rotation, and I just couldn’t stop.  But that was it.  No more.  Except for folding Xander’s laundry.  Because it has to be done before tomorrow so he can set up his clothes for the week.

I’m probably overdoing it a bit, but it feels good to have the time, energy and motivation to get this stuff done.  And the first time is absolutely going to be the worst.  I’m giving myself permission to not be perfect this time out (door detailing not withstanding).  As long as I keep doing it weekly/monthly/whatever, every time it will get a little bit cleaner until it’s clean clean, and that’s got to be good enough.

Tomorrow I’ll finish the bathroom and the upstairs hall, do my weekly sweeping and my daily wiping, and then we’ll see.  There will be much supervision of the kids, who are supposedly cleaning their rooms but are mostly faffing about.  I get really resentful when I’m stuck doing it for them, though, and with all the other work I have to do, I’m not real motivated to do theirs, too.  I am real motivated to make their lives miserable until they get it done, though.  Then it’s back to the week and picking away at a job or three every day until the next weekend.

Oh, and my new kitchen linoleum came in.  So now I’m really motivated to get the kitchen done!

The Nature of Magic

The Nature of Magic

As I’ve been digging into my cleaning binge, I remembered a magic spell I read many moons ago for bringing good things into your home.  The essence of it was to clean your house, shine all the windows and doorknobs to make it easier for the good things to get in, and then cast the spell.  It always seemed like a great spell, and I could have used more good things coming in many times in my life.  But I could never do it.  I could never get my house clean enough.  And I don’t mean that in a false modesty way.  My home has always been just this side of a health hazard.  Being the primary breadwinner during the day and the primary parent at night, I just never had the time to do much beyond the basics.  To get to a place where I could think about shining windows and doorknobs?  Unless I got a bunch of house brownies unexpectedly (and don’t think I didn’t put out the occasional bowl of milk, just in case), that just wasn’t going to happen.  But with this new plan comes new hope.  I need to find that spell again.  I could use a few more good things.

Because basically, that’s the nature of magic.  You aren’t making things happen Harry Potter style.  It’s about changing your own consciousness and patterns of behavior, the way you think about the world.  Can astrology and tarot tell the future?  No, I don’t believe they can.  But they can make you think about your problem or concern in a different way.  You know how people say people make astrology readings mean whatever they want?  Yeah, that’s the point of it.  It’s a way of getting around your higher mind, which thinks it knows everything but is really bossy , so you can come at the problem from a different angle.  Spells work the same way.  Which is why we’re taught never to work magic on other people without their permission.  First off, it won’t work, because you can’t change someone if they don’t want it, and second you have then created a belief/behavior of assault in your own life (“bad karma”).  Not something you want.  So in bad situations, we work magic on ourselves, to help us endure or to give us the strength to get out, get away, make it change, make it stop.

Magic is a system of hope, of optimism, of self-empowerment, the belief that we can make things better, here and now.  When you don’t have that hope, that optimism, magic doesn’t work.  If you don’t believe, you wait for magic from the outside to make something happen.  But magic comes from within, and only you can make it work for yourself.

It’s been a long slog, but I’m starting to get that optimism back.

I think I’ll go mop the front hall.  And maybe shine a window or two.