Tag Archives: organizing

With a Bullet

With a Bullet

I started a bullet journal last month.


I blame Nikki.

(Those of you who read both our blogs won’t be surprised to see we blame each other for everything.  Because it’s true.  We’re co-enablers.)

Actually, I should probably thank her.  A couple of months ago, she started pinning a bunch of blog posts about journalling on Pinterest, and since I follow her, I saw them all.  Curious, i checked them out.  And promptly went, “no, no way, nuh-uh!” and backed out of there fast.  These weren’t journals, they were works of art, and I just had no time for something that looked so impractical.  Plus, frankly, I’m a crap artist.

But the damage was done, and occassionally bullet journal suggestions would crop up in my Pinterest feed.

Summer went on, and I felt so out of control, for lots of reasons.  Lists and notes started piling up, lost or forgotten.  I had my cell phone, but I had one app for this and two for that, idea lists on Drive and household project specs on Evernote and recipes on Pinterest.  My phone has limited memory, so I can’t have all the apps I use to keep organized.  I’m not sure what made me think of bullet journalling.  But I had a quiet moment at work, so on a whim I looked up “how to start bullet journalling.”  4 minutes and 12 seconds later, I grabbed a notebook and got started.

Bullet journalling is the perfect Strikhedonista tool.  Because it is what you make it, organized in a way that works for you. You don’t have to fit someone else’s idea of organized or useful, and it doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate. It’s kind of like the game Go.  Five minutes to learn, a lifetime to master.

So, here’s how to start your own Strikhedonista bullet journal.  First, watch this video:

Need a little more?  Try an infographic:

One more resource:  WTF is a Bullet Journal and Why Should You Start One  (This is the article that finally broke me.)

Now, and I cannot stress this enough:  DON’T LOOK AT ANYTHING ELSE.  Trust me, the information you get from these three sources is plenty, and anything more just gets really overwhelming.  Find your own groove, then see what other people are doing.

Grab a notebook or a blank book.  Most of us have something lying around the house, whether it’s a remnant of our last attempt at journalling, a composition book the kids never used, whatever.  It should be big enough to write everything you need but small enough for you to carry with you everywhere.  And a pen.  Don’t forget a pen.  Any pen will do, but if it’s one you really like, so much the better.  You do NOT need to spend $20 on a German-made blank book and $30 more on fancy pens.

This is what I started out with:


Exciting, huh?  Just a basic 8″x5″ spiral notebook with lines and a felt tip pen.  Standard office stock.  Literally, in this case.  I grabbed these out of the supply cabinet at work.  You can get fancy later, but until you know if this is going to work for you, why waste the money?

Now, go back and rewatch the video, following along with each step.  Once you get to the end of the video, you have the basics of the bullet journal set.  But that’s just the beginning.  The video only briefly touches on collections, but that’s really where your personalization will blossom.  As you add bullets in your rapid logging, start to keep an eye out for patterns.  Are you writing down authors or books you heard about?  Turn to your next blank page and start a To Be Read log.  Keep forgetting birthdays?  Why not keep a Birthdays collection?  I created a Running log, a Knitting projects log (so I knew where all my needles were), and a Fall Garden job list.  I also put the notes from the kids’ IEP meetings in here.  I created a special spread (two facing pages) for our trip to Woodstock next week, with contact details for the house we’re staying in, our schedule for the week, shopping lists, whatever.  While we’re there, I’ll handwrite notes and observations in the bullet journal, which will then go in the index.

20161004_144006My current index.

If something doesn’t work, stop doing it.  You aren’t stuck with it if you don’t use it.  I have half a dozen pages already that I may never actually use.  Need something more?  Add it!  After the first week, I realized I need to see my week at a glance so I know what’s coming over the next few days, more than the Monthly Log gives.  So I created a rough Weekly Log spread that’s gotten fancier as I’ve found what I need to keep track of.  I also realized I needed a 4 month at a glance working calendar for scheduling appointments.  So I printed out 4 months of my Google calendar and pasted it in the book.  I still keep the calendar in Google because I can add appointments and reminders to the kids’ calendars, but it’s so much easier when I’m scheduling appointments to have it in print. Other people have habit trackers and gratitude logs, menu planning and watch lists.  Find what is your.  Make the system your own.

But now all these pages are in the way of your Daily log!  Now what?  Just turn to the next blank page.  Always just turn to the next blank page.  Don’t try to segment the book ahead of time, because you don’t know what you’re going to want or need.  Just turn to the next blank page.  If you don’t want to keep your Daily logs in your index (I don’t), an easy way to keep track or where those pages are is by “threading”.  Find the page number for your new daily log page.  Then go back to your previous page. draw an arrow away from the existing page number and write the new page number.  On the new page, write the page number you’re coming from and an arrow pointing to the new one.


Now you can find your way back, no problem!

And don’t go bonkers on stuff!  You really don’t need a lot.  There are a ton of printables and stamps and templates and decorations and whatnot out there.  You don’t need it.  My second week, I bought a dozen different rolls of washi tape, but got rid of half of them a week later.  I just don’t use it.  Washi tape=fancy, expensive masking tape.  You don’t need it.  Here’s my current kit:


One set of colored pens (Pilot Razor Point V, $8).  These are my favorite pens for writing.  Not a huge color range, but enough to play with.

Washi tape.  Yes, I have some.  But I really only use one of these, the teal watercolor one in the front row.  If you love them, use them.  Otherwise, get 1-2 that you really love and step away from the rest.

A straight edge.  I can’t draw a straight line to save my soul.  I have one in my box and 1 in a pocket I put in the back of my journal.  With washi tape.

Removable index tabs.  I use these to mark the pages I go to a lot.  In my case, the monthly, weekly and daily pages.  Use more if you want.  These three work for me.  Other pages I go to often but not every day I mark on the edge.  With washi tape.  Don’t be like me.

Doublesided tape.  this I absolutely recommend.  I got mine for $1 at AC Moore, but it’s worth its weight.  Great for sticking anything in your book you want to keep.  I used it to stick the 4 month calendar in.

And obviously your notebook and pen.  Once you decide if the system works for you, then you can start playing with the fancier stuff.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get the schmancy German book everyone else uses.  It’s expensive, first off, although once I sat down and calculated it, per page it’s not that much more expensive than the other things I’ve looked at.  But I want it spiral bound.  That is purely a preference thing.  I have a couple of options to test, which I’ll probably report on here.  And pens.  I have a set of pens that I love, so I’m not going to go chasing around, but you can explore all the various options out there (Staedler and Sharpie ultrafines seem to be the most popular).  Find what feels good.  Don’t break the bank.

That’s it.  That’s all you need.  I fancied up the cover of mine with scrapbook paper (and washi tape), and I’m playing with prettier pages, but it will never be a work of art.  That’s okay.  It’s more important that it’s functional, and mine has proven itself as all that and more.  To the point where I now get as twitchy without it as I do if I forget my cell phone.

Bullet journalists talk about it being a tool for mindfulness, and I am finding that, although maybe not for the reasons other people do.  For me, my journal is a brain dump, a place I can keep all the thoughts and ideas constantly jockeying for may attention  When I write them down, I can forget about them for a bit and focus on whatever task I have at hand.  I’m forgetting things less and accomplishing more.  It really is helping me be more organized.

As long as I don’t leave it on my desk at work…

The Other Weekend Project

The Other Weekend Project

I got a new pantry.


Well, technically, no.  I didn’t add on to the house or anything.  But moving the rabbits out gave me a shelf back, and thanks to the wonders of Freecycle, I got a new freezer.

A big freezer.

A semi-orgasmic big freezer. (Yes, I’m weird.)

You guys probably remember my old chest freezer from my freezer cooking post a couple of weeks ago.

Seriously not of the large.  I think it was about 7 cubic feet, most of that downwards.  So it wouldn’t hold a lot, but it also was really hard to use.  If I wanted something on the bottom, I had to empty everything out of it onto the washer and dryer, get what I needed, and then load it all back in again.  I lost a pound and a half of Italian sausage last week because I missed them on reloading and they sat out for three days.  Ew.

Frustrated by that loss, I decided to take a chance and put a request out on Freecycle.  For those of you not familiar with this, Freecycle is a local group-based exchange community where people who need something or people have something to get rid of post their items and see if anyone else needs or has them.  The only catch is it has to be free.  No fees, no bartering, FREE.  In the past, I found a new family for my old piano and got a full brewing kit for Nikki.  I haven’t had as much luck recently trying to get things people had posted, to the point where I was wondering if my account was messed up.  But I took a chance and put out a request for an upright freezer, minimum 13 sq. ft.

A week later, I got a response.

Of course, it was right in the middle of the 4H chaos, but I didn’t want to risk losing it, so I said of course we would come Friday night.  I ran home after work, the boys took the seats out of the van, and off we all went.  It was only about 20 minutes from the house.  The lady was waiting for us when we got there.  She was so nice.  Apparently her husband had worked in the meat industry and was a big carnivore, so the freezer was his.  But he’d passed away recently, and she didn’t need it, so my post was incentive for her.  And OMG, this thing was BEAUTIFUL.  Big enough to put a couple of bodies in!  And pristine.  Only 5 years old, so definitely more efficient than my old beast.  She had a dolly, so we got it in the van lickety split.  She even gave us a big bag of meat as well.  She said she was just feeding it to her dogs, which was a waste, so of course I took it!

We drove home, Xander getting only a little squished in the back.  But when we got there, I realized we DON’T have a dolly.  So getting it into the house became trickier.  We slid it out of the van, which worked great until the cardboard I was using as a skid slid out, exposing the trunk latch, which gouged the hell out of the side of the freezer.  So much for pristine.  We managed to get it up on the porch, but then I was stymied.  It just wasn’t going to fit through the door.  But I had to leave in 45 minutes to get Hero from the fair, so I sent a desperation text to Eric.  I got lucky, and he came over fairly quickly, took the door off the freezer (I have to learn how to do that) and he and Xander moved it in while I emptied the old one.  The new one wasn’t going to fit in the old space, though, so I cleared some of the stuff off the pantry shelves and swept up all the rabbit poo, and we did a quick rearrange.  Then they put the freezer in, I slammed all the frozen stuff into the new freezer, and ran off to get the girl.


Look at that.  That is everything you saw in the picture of the old freezer AND half the stuff from the fridge freezer.  And it’s still not even half full! I’m absolutely giddy.

Saturday was spent at the fair, so I didn’t get to do much, so Sunday was cleaning day.  I did a bunch of laundry to clear the decks, and had Hero shopvac up the rest of the rabbit litter (Taffy is a slob).  Then I reorganized the shelves, as the back end isn’t as convenient as the front end now.  But that’s okay.  I’ve put the long term storage items on that end and the things I use all the time on the end closer to the kitchen door.  I also got a couple of 5 gallon buckets.


Two of these are filled as labeled (I’ll get the sugar the next time I get paid).  These will go on the bottom shelf, along with new bins for potatoes and onions as soon as I get them.  I feel a little like a prepper, but it really does feel good to have this stuff on hand.

The weirdest think I’m happy about?  I have ice cubes.  I have never had room in my freezers to keep ice cubes on hand.  Whenever I’ve needed them for a party or anything, I’ve had to go out and buy a bag.  But now I have a bin in the door of the big freezer, and I just keep making up trays and dumping them in the box.  Xander’s already gotten in the habit of adding them to his drinks.  It’s such a little thing, but it just feels so good.  And we realized we can actually keep ice cream on hand (assuming I can keep the boys from stealing it all).  We never could because again, just no room.  I’m just… No words.

So my next project:  Making and freezing half a dozen pizzas.  I have room for them now, and it will give me a no cook night!

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!

Another year older

Another year older

Yesterday was my birthday.  48.  I’m still young enough at heart to love my birthday, even when I don’t do anything special for it.  Just seeing that date gives me a little thrill.  And this year I really didn’t do anything too exciting.  Talked to most of the family, and went to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  Come on, it released ON MY BIRTHDAY.  All the posters have MY BIRTHDAY on them.  Of course I was going!  No birthday cake, but I did order in Indian food while I worked on the super-secret cookies for the office bake-off on Friday.  Mom sent me money that was only to be used for new clothes, and Nikki got me a crazy fiber sampler kit with 28 different fibers to spin so I can learn the properties of each.  But in general it was a quiet day.

Ben asked me if I felt any different.  Normally I don’t, but this year I had to laugh.  Of COURSE I feel different!  This time last year I was still pre-surgery.  I was 265 pounds, tired all the time, and weighed down by more than just my physical weight.  As of this morning, I’m down 112 pounds, and I’ve had the energy to start shedding a lot of mental and physical clutter that was weighing me down as well.  I have a new job that I’m happy in and good at, my house is starting to look and feel the way I want it to, and while I’m not back to writing yet, my creativity is coming back out in so many ways, including this blog.  I still have a ways to go, but at this point they’re small steps rather than the giant leaps I’ve been taking this year.  Tweaks and adornments.  Like making a new light braid for the French doors.  Or buying theme scented candles.  Or new underwear.  Small things that make life a little more enjoyable.

So, welcome 48.  Despite some of the bumps and bruises of 47, I’m hoping you’ll be just as good as it was.

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!


Hitting the floor

Hitting the floor

To quote John Watson, that was the most ridiculous thing I have ever done.

Everything started out according to plan.  I got home from work Thursday afternoon to an empty, quiet house and started moving stuff.  Everything came out of the kitchen.  Everything off the coat rack, everything on the floor, all the tables, everything except the corner cabinet and the fridge.  Those I just pushed into the middle of the floor.  Morgan wasn’t due back from school until after 8, and I had no idea when the kids would be home (turned out to be almost 10), so I started cleaning.  It was TERRIBLE.  The dust under the corner cabinet was cotton candy thick, and under the fridge was even worse.  I couldn’t even get most of that up, but since the floor was coming up, I didn’t really bother.  But the baseboards were bothering me.  So I tried cleaning them.  Emphasis on the word “try”.  I tried cleaner and paper towels.  I tried bleach cleaner and rags.  I tried Magic Eraser.  No good.  It kept coming up dingy and gray.  Depressing.  It was going to need repainting.  But not now, I insisted.

I picked Morgan up from school and brought him home with the promise of a late dinner after we got the furniture moved.  The corner cabinet went pretty well, considering it has nothing to get a good hold on.  But the fridge… Yeah.  I ended up taking the handles off of it and taking down everything stuck to it so we could get it out.  It was a production.  But we managed it with only a tipped over jug of milk (it fortunately didn’t spill).  I started Morgan’s dinner, and while we waited for the water to boil, I pulled up a chunk of the linoleum.  It was so old, most of the adhesive had disintegrated, so it came up in a big piece.  Morgan tried one and got a bigger piece.  And we…just kept going.  For me it was like peeling a sunburn (which I love doing).  He kept pulling pieces up and reading them like clouds (“Look, it’s South America!”)  By the time his spaghetti was ready, we had all the low hanging fruit up and had started in the butter knives.  We were both committed now.  And by 9:30, the kitchen looked like this:


(See what I mean about the woodwork?  And that’s after cleaning it.)

And the dining room looked like this:


Okay, so all was good.  Friday I would get up what else I could of the old linoleum and get the floor swept and vacuumed within an inch of its life.  And I wouldn’t think about painting, even though with my incredibly sloppy painting style, this would be the PERFECT time to at least do the woodwork.

And then Nikki, my faithful Ethel, told me she’d come up by about 11.

I get up at 7.  That’s FOUR HOURS of wasted time!  I could do anything in that time!  I could… do a second coat of paint.  *sigh*  Yeah, I was painting.

So I stopped at Lowe’s on my way home from work.  Got a gallon of “high hide” (HA!) white for $20, a couple of cheap brushes and some masking tape.  I also scored a length of moulding.  It’s called carpet reducer or transition moulding, but it’s basically a piece of sloped moulding with a cut out to go over the edge of carpeting or other height difference in the floor.  I have that from the hardwood floor in the dining room to the subflooring in the kitchen, so this will make a nice change from the crappy metal strip that was there before that people kept tripping over.  We ordered in pizza and Chinese and I started painting.  It took me about 45 minutes to do everything.  It helped that I didn’t have to be careful of ANYTHING.  The paint was flying.  I didn’t care about the floor, because it was all going to be covered, I’d taped the glass so it was mostly safe, and I didn’t care about the walls, as I was just going to be painting them in a month anyway!  And even that first coat made such a difference, although high hide, my ass.



And yes, I painted that grill, too.  Irritating.  The only time I hesitated was when I came to the kids’ height measurements.


This was the last place they were preserved, as the other was at my mother’s old house and she didn’t take that piece of moulding with her.  Advice for new parents: Invest in that height measurement doo-dad.  Or just get an 8 foot piece of moulding, paint it up nice, screw it to the wall and forget about it.  You’ll think it’s stupid at the time, until it comes time to move or paint.  Then it will hurt.  This hurt.  But I did it anyway.  As you can see, it needed it.

One coat was definitely not going to be enough, though, but since Nikki was coming so late, I’d have plenty of time to get it done.  And maybe wash the paint out of my hair.


I woke up at 3 in the morning with the overwhelming need to go paint.

I should have listened to that urge.  Instead, I read for an hour and then tried to go back to sleep. Got up around 7 after an appalling sleep, had my breakfast, and got back to work.  But as I worked, it quickly became clear that two coats wasn’t going to be enough, either.  The baseboards seemed okay, but the doors and windows were still looking streaky and gray.  And just as I was finishing, I paused to check my texts.  Nikki was on her way and would be there around 9.  It was 8:50.  I looked at all the wet paint in horror, and then started revising my plan.  We had to wait 4 hours between coats.  Okay, I had to get the kids up and out the door with their father, and then we needed to microwave shop for Nikki for her apartment reno and hit Target for some sheets and cleaning supplies.  So we did all that, plus I ended up with a new toilet seats and hooks to fix the kitchen coat rack, and we stopped for lunch.  Eating is good.  Must remember to eat.  We got back around 2 and started on the third coat.  At least with two of us it went a lot faster.  But yeah, it was definitely needed.  Nikki said, “I thought this wasn’t really necessary until I started putting the paint on…”  Yeah.  But everything’s gorgeous now.  So it was about 3:15  by the time we finally got started on the floor.

The first decision was the hardest.  The tile was…not what I’d expected.  The online picture had looked like varying length worn wood planks.  What was in the box was just vaguely wood colored stripes with a bit of graining.  I almost burst into tears when I saw them Thursday, the first time I had opened the box.  But it was what I had and it would have to do.  But as I’m laying out the center point (we finally ended up being lazy and using the subfloor seams instead, as I was making a hash of it), Nikki suggested, “Why don’t we alter the directions?”  Initially I was horrified.  I was so focused on trying to make this blend in with the rest of the house that I was sure doing such a thing would look terrible.  But, pretending to be a reasonable person, I agreed to try it.  It…looked okay.  So I jumped in.  “Okay, do it.”  And we did.  It started small:


And just kept growing!


It didn’t take too long to get the bulk of the floor down, maybe 45 minutes to an hour.  Then we started trimming to fit around all the edges and cabinets.  That took longer, at least an hour and a half.  But when we were done, it was beautiful.


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I kept telling Nikki that she was right.  And she absolutely was.  If I had done it the way I planned, it would have looked tacky and terrible.  This was gorgeous, warm and inviting.  It even made the cupboards look better!

Then the drama of getting the furniture back in began.  We started with the fridge.  I had wisely bought sliders to help get it across the floor.  They didn’t help.  The new threshold didn’t make it any easier to get it through the door.  We pushed and pulled and shoved and cursed, and I dropped it on Nikki’s hand.  (We’re now even for when she dropped her metal loft frame on my head.)  Finally she had the inspiration of using the small luggage hand truck she had brought to haul her new microwave with.  I handed it over, we heaved and ho-ed, and like magic, the fridge was in.  Plugged it in and pulled out a bag of frozen peas for her hand while I shifted the corner cabinet.  The sliders worked for that, and in fact I’m probably going to get some nail in ones to make it easier in the future.  But that was enough for one day.

We wanted to watch Doctor Who, but neither of us had the brain capacity.  We did go out to dinner around 6:30, and discovered that the new Indian place around the corner is about the best EVER.  Getting some food in helped (as lunch was about six hours before), but we were still pretty toasted.  We hung out until the kids got home around 9 just so we could see their reaction, and then I drove Nikki and her new microwave home.  We avoided the Deb traffic curse and made it down in good time, although getting home was more of an adventure, as the exit onto the Schuylkill was under construction, so I got to drive around the neighborhoods and past the zoo to get on, and then there was an accident.  But I was home by 10:30 and totally crashed.  Only to wake up at 4 and not be able to sleep again.  *sigh*

So it is now a kitchen again, and I’m so happy.

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It still needs the walls painted, and I need to replace the ceiling tiles.  I’ll paint the grid at the same time I do the walls.  And believe me, I will be taping and covering the hell out of the woodwork and the floor when I do!  And new rules are in place now that whoever does the dishes also has to sweep the floor now.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, as I’ll do a perfect job on it with my weekly sweeps, and it can now get mopped once a month as well.  I can’t tell you when the last time was that I mopped that old floor.  But for under $200, I’ve had a pretty substantial improvement in my kitchen.  It just feels good to be in there.

Now to decide on my next project.  I should get the front walk redone before the snow flies…


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.

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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…