Starting Tomorrow…

ReadingAloudImage

My annual attempt at being a real blogger!

😀

Honestly, though… Children’s literature has a Very Special Place in my heart, and I’m hoping to share a bit of the Who, What, When, Why, Where, and How of sharing great books with the children in your life! There are so many wonderful books for kids out there… Join us as we discuss them for the next 31 DAYS!

Multi-Tasking…

The idea of multi-tasking has always been a bit of a quandary to me.

To multi-task or not? That is the question.

Back in the 90’s, as a full-time Mama and homeschool teacher, I was constantly in pursuit of the “how to get it all done” goal, reading everything available by Emilie Barnes (who I dearly love, by the way) and The Sidetracked Home Executives (a.k.a. The Slob Sisters, who I secretly felt more akin to). I had thank you notes tucked in my purse for those fifteen minutes in the doctor’s waiting room and an hourly-daily-weekly-monthly-yearly plan on 3″ x 5″ cards. The first time I heard the “Put Your Rocks in the Jar” speech, I was taking notes about which size stones to put in first so I could squeeze in everything that had to be done. And then the punchline…

Put your rocks in first.

Wait, What?!?

That totally blew my mind.

Here I was, trying to schedule everything down to the minute to be more efficient, and someone had to burst my bubble by telling me there are Really Important Things that needed to be established in my daily routine before all the little mundane things choked them out. Of course I knew this deep down, but somewhere in the 90’s the be-all-you-can-be and the get-it-all-done-ness of life had taken over. The Rocks in the Jar speech set me on a new path. Thank goodness. I began to see the need to slow down, to live purposefully, to focus. There weren’t fancy names for this idea yet, no coined terms, but I did find a few signs to hang around the house that said “Simplify Simplify Simplify.” Sally Clarkson and Tasha Tudor and Karey Swan were my new mentors… and I still hung on to Emilie Barnes, who really was teaching the importance of balance between organized and calm in her books about “home.” (I was just clinging obsessively to the checklist chapters!) Yes, organization and efficiency was important, but it was the means to an end, not the sum of life. We need to be organized just a bit so we can get to the good stuff. And we need to make sure the good stuff has priority in our days. So, we pared down our outside activities to have more time as a family. Having it together and getting it all done evolved into a few simple routines. Daily schedules turned into “chunks of time” for home keeping, school work, read-aloud (a Very Big Chunk!), food prep, and project time. Life at home transitioned into a relatively peaceful existence for our girls’ school years.

However, the years since our girls finished homeschooling and flew the coop have been quite a change for us. With extra time on my hands and less dirt being tracked in, the “Now what?” quickly turned into overly full calendars. Craft shows and orders and college classes and volunteering took precedence over housework. Our schedule was crazy, because since we  weren’t tied to a schedule anymore we had more free time to fill. And fill, it did. With good things, but maybe not always the best. I was busy, busy, terribly busy (think Veggie Tales, you Moms from the 90’s) and I didn’t like it one bit. And so the quest began once again for peace and home and all things unhurried.

Since then, we have waxed and waned in our quest for a calm life since then, and some days we wonder if we’re headed in the right direction. (This summer, in particular!) Sometimes the house and the schedule are very full, but I do think we’re learning how to balance the hectic with the calm, and just go with the flow. And, it is so refreshing to see young moms seeking this same balance of living intentionally while embracing the craziness of little children. They are so open and honest with their insights on making a home for their families and appreciating this season of their lives. If you’d like a little inspiration or help, check out Mary Beth’s Steady Days posts, or Kate’s Get It Together posts, or Jordan’s Little Happy Things posts.

And… I’m still taking notes… from the young moms, who have fresh perspective
about simple ways of multi-tasking and establishing simple routines so when
life does get suddenly hectic the world (and the house!) doesn’t fall apart.

The Hole in my Floor, and other Sundry Items…

Many times when we’re doing a project, I forget to take “Before” pictures. Mostly because we jump right in and tear things apart before I remember to grab the camera, and sometimes because the “Before” is really not camera-worthy. At least it’s not a photo I’d like to put out on the internet for the world to see. However, sometimes we have a few “Mid-Remodel” pictures, where the worst of the dust has been swept away. This kitchen project is taking a while, so I snapped a couple of shots to share. First, let me present…

The Hole in my Floor
HoleInFloor

This may very well be the only picture I have of our old kitchen. Hubby built the cupboards when we built the house, and now we’ve stolen the “bar” section to use in the new kitchen. (We also stole the drawers, as you can see, to repurpose as an add-on to the cabinet we moved.) The good thing about being able to move this huge section of cabinets is that within a day I had a cabinet in the new kitchen to move lots of essentials into. Didn’t have to wait for Hubby to build a whole new one… Plus I still get to enjoy the original cabinets he built! The bad thing is that it left a cabinet-sized hole in the floor of one of the main rooms in our house, which then quickly turned into a room-sized hole when Hubby cleaned up the rest of the tile and leveled the subfloor. Another good thing about the Hole in the Floor was that it provided a temporary “art” space while we had kiddos visiting that I didn’t need to worry about messes! Shoes were mandatory, however, to avoid splinters. Hopefully, Some Day Very Soon, there will be a wall around the hole, creating a laundry hallway, and a new room that will either be a second full bathroom or a small art room to hide my creative messes. Still up in the air on that decision. My mind changes daily.

Important Note:
When laying ceramic tile, be sure to buy and keep several extra
boxes of the tile just in case you decide to remove a kitchen cabinet.
The Hole in my Floor could have been avoided,
had we thought of doing that when we tiled 8 years ago.

Another item of interest in this “Mid-Remodel” picture is the scale hanging in the middle of the walkway. I left it there to test our agility. And the Worm Bin, hiding under the high chair. We ordered a new batch of earthworms while our little friends were here, and let me tell you, 500 Red Wigglers in your kitchen is extremely interesting to a 3 year-old boy!

If only I could have caught that Blue-Tailed Lizard
that’s been living near our deck the past couple of weeks!
Wouldn’t that little guy have had fun being up
close and personal with that critter!

Now for the “Mid-Remodel” photo of the new kitchen…
Cabinet

Six feet of ready-made (almost) cabinetry let me move the Most Important Kitchen Stuff into the new kitchen right away! Ignore the multi-color aspect. It will get worse before it gets better… I need to paint the drawer fronts so I can put the knobs back on so the drawers are easier to open. Hubby is also going to make brand new doors, since the 20+ year-old hard-as-nails-oil-based-paint is super difficult to sand off the nooks and crannies of the old doors, but we’ll leave the funky brown ones on until that happens to conceal all the Most Important Kitchen Stuff inside. There will be upper cabinets as well, so also ignore all the random stuff on the countertop. They’re going to be extra tall to make use of the 10-foot ceilings in the new kitchen. My hope is that the cabinet section will look more like a step-back hutch than kitchen cabinets.

Mid-Remodel Disclaimer: I’m still in the “what in the world was
I thinking when I thought I wanted a new kitchen” phase of the remodel…
…Really hoping it starts looking like the vision I had in my head very soon!

Additional items of interest include the Play-Doh on the counter (used multiple times the past few weeks) and the kitschy vinyl tablecloth on the extreme left of the photo (which protected the as-yet-unsealed new butcher block tabletop from said Play-Doh). Oh, and the teapot sitting in a colander on the other counter.

So, our work is pretty much cut out for us for the next few weeks as we finish up this big change! It’s been a challenge to have everything in the “Betwixt and Between” phase while we had company, but I think it added a little thrill to our lives.

😀

And before I go, I read through my last post and
realized I missed a few Very Important Things
that we experienced during The Last Six Weeks

LOTS of giggles and laughter.

LOTS of kisses and hugs, including
Fish kisses and Eskimo kisses,
and Bear Hugs and Bedtime Snuggles.

LOTS of silly songs, silly stories,
and general all-around silly-ness.

LOTS of Together Time getting to know
(and now miss!) a bunch of little people.

Now how could I have forgotten to write about all that?

🙂

The Last Six Weeks…

The Last Six Weeks have involved…

(… in no particular order…)

(…actually in a random-what-in-the-world
sort of order even though I planned things to
be done very quickly and fastly and orderly…)

(Spellcheck doen NOT  like the non-word “fastly.”)

Okay… here’s the list…

Moving the fridge into a new kitchen.

Moving the freezer into the family room.

Moving the freezer into the new kitchen.

Moving the stove into the new kitchen.

Moving a huge section of our old kitchen
cabinets into the new kitchen.

Creating a giant hole in the old kitchen
where the old cabinets used to be.

Needing to re-tile a floor.

Needing to build a wall.

Needing to build upper cabinets
in the new kitchen.

Putting together two sets of bunk beds.

Filling them with a variety of children.

Nine children , to be exact, in various configurations.

Lego’s, Barbies, Disney movies, kiddie pools,
the park, the beach, the state fair,
play-dough, trains, dolls, and balls.

Nosebleeds, bruised shins, fevers,
arthritis, coughs, and a bad sore throat.

Not quite enough time with my new grandboy.
Or to chat with my big grand boys.
Or  with my girls or my mom.
Or my BFF’s.

Finding out some things that I just can’t handle.
And some things I thought I couldn’t handle but did.
And lived to laugh about it.
And also to cry about it.

Feeling like I wasn’t able to help those around me
because I was helping those around me.

And most of all, learning to make do at the moment,
to adapt where needed, ignore the imperfect,
and take a nap whenever possible.

And then, just when the house was quiet again…
…although the dust hasn’t settled yet…
…and probably won’t for a while…

… a wonderful GIFT came in the mail…

NestingPlace

Mary Ostyn from Owl Haven
emailed me a week or so ago to let me know
that I had won a give-away on her blog!

A brand new copy of Myquillyn Smith’s
(a.k.a The Nester)
new book…

The Nesting Place!!!

Let me tell, that book came at just the right time.
Coupled with some strong coffee, it was just what I needed
to gather my gumption and begin to put my imperfectly
messy (and slightly sticky) home back together.

(Heavy on the “begin” part, mind you, because the
aforementioned  sore throat belongs to me.
So some of the gumption is only in my head.)

I’m reading… and re-reading… every page of this decorating book
that was written for those of us who have lived-in homes.
(Which is funny, because I’m a “picture-looker-atter”
when it comes to decorating books… not usually a reader!)

So thank-you-thank-you-thank-you-thank-you
to Mary and Myquillyn for the much needed picker-upper!!!

Stretching Chickens and Raising Kids…

A slightly quirky blog post title, I know. I’m not quite sure if I’ve had too much coffee this morning… or too little. But there you have it. The things in my head at 8:00 a.m. And Hubby escaped into the world of hammers and nails before I started exponderating. Lucky readers.

😀

Along the thought line of making do in the kitchen, have you ever heard of “Rubber Chicken” recipes? Go ahead… google “rubber chicken recipes” and you’ll find LOTS. I can’t quite remember where I first learned the term, but the idea has been passed down for generations by frugal homemakers. How to make a single chicken last and last and last. It’s quite a fun game. One night last week, Hubby and I were pondering dinner way past the time dinner should have been, and we decided to just run to the store for a couple of TV dinners. We walked past the rotisserie chickens and changed our plans. Out we walked with a skinny little $6 chicken and a package of microwave garlic mashed potatoes. I had applesauce at home to round it out. Fast food dinner for two for under $10. At least I knew I could pull another dinner out of the remains of the chicken the next night.

Since it was so late, we really didn’t eat much of the chicken. So, the next night, I pulled it out of the fridge, warmed up the rest of the white meat, and served it with broccoli and a package of brown rice pilaf  which I had purchased in bulk a few weeks ago when they were on sale for $1 a bag. (They make a great side dish for those just-the-two-of-us dinners!) So, a second dinner for about $3, counting up the broccoli, rice, and leftover applesauce.

Two nights later, the thought of dinner came up again, and I knew that bird was still hanging out in the fridge. As I was picking all the meat off the carcass, the kids called and said they were on the way over. Chicken soup was offered if they hadn’t eaten yet, and they hadn’t. The bones and skin went into a pot to boil, and I scrounged the kitchen for soup-makings. Several carrots, some celery, an onion, a potato, brown rice, and some spices were thrown with the leftover chicken once the broth was strained. Added in some homemade bread and opened another jar of applesauce, and we all had warm and full tummies.

And then last night, instead of heating the leftover soup, we opted for rolling out a pie crust and turning the soup and the leftover broccoli (from Dinner #2) into a chicken pot pie. Sides were corn and leftover applesauce. (We both really like applesauce, by the way.) We only ate half the pie, so dinner tonight is leftovers again. I stopped trying to figure out what the dinners cost after the first two nights, since all they “cost” was a bit of elbow grease and stuff that was already in my fridge threatening to mold if we ordered out. I do know that skinny little chicken ended up being a part of five dinners…one with company. Chicken stretching… favorite sport of frugal homemakers.

Pie

And in the area of raising kids… Mom and I have been taking my youngest daughter, Kate, who is great with child, on looong walks in hopes that the grand baby will be born soon. Last week we went to an antique shop that takes several hours to peruse, and I was very well-behaved, coming out with only a $3 book that looked interesting. And it has been. Absolutely, utterly refreshing, and rather funny… which couldn’t be helped considering who the author is. Common-sensical wisdom on child raising combined with humor and whit, written over 50 years ago. I’ve read a lot of books on parenting, but I’ve never laughed quite so much or agreed any more than I have while reading this one…

Kids

I have to put the disclaimer that I don’t agree with everything Mr. Linkletter writes, but Oh. My. Stars. he sure hits the nail on the head in so many areas. It’s like having a great conversation with your grandfather about how to raise happy, healthy kids. I may be sharing some of it with you in the next few posts.

Have a great Tuesday!

The Cookie Section…

I had an unexpected quiet hour this morning, and decided to tackle a pile of recipes that I had pulled out of my old recipe binder a while back. I’ve been slowly adding them to the new red Martha Stewart binder that I filled with cute Susan Branch recipe dividers from another binder.

Yep. I do tend to collect binders. And dividers.
And various other paper organizational materials.
And switch them out and rearrange them a little too often.

😛

Anyway, I’ve been avoiding the “Cookie Section.”
It seemed just a tiny bit overwhelming.
Is it a major character flaw if the “Cookie Section” of
your recipes is the biggest and most used section?

I think not.

One thing that really impressed me when snipping out these old recipe pages and pasting them in the new binder, was how many ladies are represented in my “Cookie Section.” My Mom and my girls. Grandmoms and Teen-agers. Old and Young. Best friends and Ladies I just met. So many memories in a rather large stack of cookie recipes. Those recipes represent Christmas from my childhood, tea parties with my girls, “Wow, I really need that recipe,” mega-cooking adventures, Civil War balls, snow days, dinner with friends,  and because-we-need-cookies-right-now-why-won’t-the-butter-soften-any-faster?

Cookie Section

If you look closely, your name might be in that pile!

🙂

If not, it’s probably in the “Dessert Section.”

A Mood Board, of sorts…

One of my girls enlightened me on “Mood Boards” this past year.

I think I sort of knew about them, but for some reason never saw the importance of creating a mood board when coming up with a new design, a fresh brand, or a  snappy decorating scheme. Jo uses them with her graphic design clients to get a feel for who they are and what they are looking for in a logo or blog header. And today, while shuffling stuff around (Expert Stuff Shuffler here.) I gathered a few things that I LOVE and that have been an inspiration for Something-In-The-Works.

I’ve had this wonderful calligraphy mat for a while…

mat

…And lots of Verbage/Words/Signage…

etc

…And am slowly adding to a collection…

cups

…And a historic print that I have LOVED since childhood
has been developed into textiles…

inspiration

… which jumpstarted the Something-In-The-Works!

Any guesses?

🙂

A Love/Hate Relationship…

Contact Paper.

Need I say more?

Nothing freshens up old cupboards like brand new Contact Paper.
One of my girls bought me several rolls of this happy
vintage green Magic Cover Contact Paper at the
Dollar Store because it looked like me…

Contact2

I saved it for a while because it had to go in just the right spot.

And I had to be in just the right mood.

Because there are a several important
steps to applying Contact Paper properly.

Step #1. Measure Carefully, taking note of
indentations in the structure of the cupboard floor.

Step #2. Cut out the first piece of Contact Paper
completely backward just for practice.
(This piece can be used later for a smaller area.)

Step #3. Cut out a new piece of Contact Paper
with the proper dimensions, right side up.

Step #4. Peel off the backing carefully and prepare
to apply the contact paper to the bottom of cupboard.

Step #5. Stick Contact Paper to your head, arms,
and any other available extremity, as well as to itself
before applying to the surface you had planned on covering.

Contactpaper

After the battle is over application is complete
you will love the results! Fresh cupboards!

I Always Wanted to Remodel an Old Farmhouse…

… But I was thrilled when we were able to build our new home…

…Nearly twenty-three years ago!

And the last couple of years, as we’ve been making
a few changes here and there, guess what?

I get to remodel an “old” farmhouse!

🙂

We’re trying our best to employ our “Thistle Dew” motto as we switch things around. Minimal cost… Maximum use. No wasted space. Use what we have to the best advantage. Over the years, we’ve swapped bedrooms few times. The attached garage became an art room. The original art room (the Work Room, as it has been called over the years) became a sewing room, and then a catch-all room. The Grand Plan now is to create a master bedroom downstairs, with as little new footprint as possible, but also without deconstructing the entire house at once. Why? Because us empty nesters need two empty bedrooms upstairs. Really. We do. There’s a Reason. And for now it’s a one-step-at-a-time process.

Before we took off for California earlier this month to see our Grandboys, Hubby and I tackled the upstairs “work room,” that crazy, pretty, big room that has been a little bit of everything to our family. We crafted up there, homeschooled up there, sewed up there… it was even a makeshift bedroom when a daughter decided she needed her own space. It was time to get that room under control!

Room2We gave it a fresh coat of paint and put in a window…
…Which Hubby accidentally ordered by mistake for a
construction job he was doing a while back.

When we returned from our trip, we tackled the floor…

FloorBeforeThe floor held evidence of craft projects from the past.
Tiny graffiti artists had left their marks as well.
However, the tongue and groove floor is also the ceiling in the art room below,
so I was reluctant to brush liquid stain on it in fear of it dripping through.

PaintI opted for using black semi-gloss paint, applied sparingly with a brush.

Floorafter

It actually turned out better than I expected,
and took less than half a quart of paint!

Floor MidwayThis is what the surface looked like… Almost finished!

deskareaAnd now the fun of putting everything back
together and organizing my art stuff!
Yep… The studio is moving back to the work room!

Thistle Dew…

Thistle Dew

This’ll Do.

That little phrase… a play on words, really…
first gave a name to our little farmette,
and then to our business.

That phrase had connotations of contentment,
of making do, of being satisfied, of just enough…
of a Goldilocks sort of not too big, not too small,
not too hard, not to soft, not to hot, not too cold…

…Just right.

Thistle Dew was a balance our family was seeking, of living life at a speed in which we could enjoy the moments. A merry-go-round that was moving along at a good pace, but going slowly enough that you could step off from time to time without fear of injury. Where you could grab a friend and jump back on for a bit of fun, walk around on the ride and choose a different horse, and even wave and talk to those on the ground.

Somewhere along the way, the merry-go-round
morphed into a dizzying tilt-a-whirl.

Activities became obligations and our calendars filled to the brim. Every day held something important… sometimes several somethings. The To-Do List was growing by leaps and bounds and seemed to be taking on a life of its own. At the same time, our closets and cubbies and attic and under-the-beds became over-stuffed and overflowing. We multi-tasked and scheduled and organized and pedaled as hard and as fast as we could, but eventually realized we were getting tired of the too much and needed the just enough again.

Just enough for what really matters…

Family

Friends

Angels Unaware

A while back, we realized we needed time to laugh and drink tons of coffee and hold little hands and take naps and bake cookies and just plain be. We began the process of clearing clutter and our schedules to make some space for real living, as well as the possibility of new and exciting adventures. We wanted to be able to say “Yes” to the right things instead of “Sorry… there’s no room… I don’t have time…” Not that our lives would not be sometimes hectic or that we would reach some sort of slow living utopia, but so we would have time to breath and enjoy life.

Last year, I chose “Home” as my one word for 2013. Looking back, I think focusing on Home, and everything it meant to us, was an important step in us getting back to just enough….

…to “this’ll do.”

Thistle Dew…

…My new/old One Word/Phrase for 2014

Snipping