Archive for ‘Habit’

January 5, 2016

Updates – House Edition

Projects have been happening inside the house as well as outside, especially since cold weather set in. As I’ve mentioned, I’m a semi-stay-at-home mom now, and over the summer I was taking all online courses, which meant I had quite a bit of flexibility during the day to putter around. I didn’t do anything major, just a few little things here and there, like framing some of our photos and hanging them, shuffling furniture around, putting up a shelf…you know, typical housewife stuff, ha.

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I even finished slipcovering the large couch. Finally! Slipcovers are essential when you have pets. And babies. Actually, they’re essential when humans are inhabiting your house in general.

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Although I feel I have less large blocks of free time now, I do have more little bursts of it, and I’m actually in the house more often to tackle small projects. For example, I turned the entryway of our kitchen into a disco club:

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See, there’s no overhead light in the entry, and the lighting in the kitchen itself is garish. I finally decided I’d had enough oppression, so I fixed it. I quite like the result. Mr. Smith found it entertaining.

Speaking of the kitchen, our small dining table got a bum leg back in June, so we swapped it out with a folding table we’ve been using for hangouts in the backyard. The idea was that Jason would fix the little table, but we all decided we liked the big white table so much that I gave it a fresh coat of paint and called it even.

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I was hesitant to leave it at first; we don’t have a large kitchen, and I didn’t like the idea of taking up more floor space than necessary. However, six months later, I don’t regret making the swap in the least. It’s another surface to use when cooking, it looks awesome, and we can easily accommodate friends at a meal. The only downside of having a white table is that it begins to look “distressed” pretty quickly. Kid life, you know?

We’ve also been playing move the baby’s room for a few months. Finn started out sleeping in our bedroom. When she was about seven months old, we moved her into the nursery. It wasn’t a fun decision, but she was keeping us awake, and we were keeping her awake, and moving her into her own room actually helped everyone sleep better. Her nursery is the room that we were using as a sort of dining room/laundry room/game room/room to put random crap in. I never really liked it until it became hers. We got her a rug, and it was an incredibly cozy, fun space.

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And then we moved her out of it.

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Mr. Smith has been wanting to knock out the wall between the living room and her room for some time, and replace it with a two-sided bookcase. The rooms will still be separate, but the wall will become a built in. He started the whole process in December, beginning with moving Finn out while construction is underway. We did some shuffling with the office/art room, so now she’s tucked away under the eaves upstairs. My sewing supplies are still residing up there, as well as the guest bed (which comes in handy when your baby won’t go back to sleep at four in the morning and you just need to lie down). Mr.’s desk and all office-related furnishings are hanging out in the corner of what was her room downstairs, because the desk doesn’t need naps, and therefore isn’t affected by the wall being knocked out.

While I prefer her being downstairs, her little nook upstairs isn’t bad at all. It’s a pain trudging up and down the steps with a heavy baby, but she seems to enjoy where she’s at.

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Also, we’re getting a bookcase! Do you know that we have about twenty boxes of books in storage? He’s building it out of maple, and designing it from scratch without a pre-printed plan. And no, Mr. Smith is not a professional woodworker. He’s learning as he goes along. He’s probably the only person I know who possesses just the right balance of meticulousness and raw bravery to accomplish such a feat, ha. I’m excited. I know he’ll do well, and I really can’t wait to unpack our books at last! To me, that will be the final stage of moving in.

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June 1, 2015

Two and a half sixes

In the past two weeks, we celebrated two important “six” occasions:

Finn is six months old!

She would love to be able to crawl but just can't quite figure it out yet!

This little toot has now passed the half year mark. That cliche saying, about how quickly time goes by when you have a baby? Well, it’s mostly true. I say mostly because there’s also an aspect of it that feels just right. We love her in every stage that she’s at, and each one is more exciting than the last. She certainly does make it hard to get anything done, not just because she has an amazing amount of needs for us to fill, but also because she’s so darn awesome. Nothing is fun the way that hanging out with your kid is fun. She loves smiling, grabbing onto skin/dreadlocks/beards, giggling after a diaper blowout, and gnawing on anything she can fit in her mouth. After multiple attempts at stealing food out of our hands, we tried some solids this past month with entertaining results. Aside from avocados, she seemed to like everything we fed her, especially sweet potatoes. I’ll have to try to trick some into growing for us next year! Now that the garden is just starting to produce, I’m excited to be able to offer her lots of fresh vegetables over the summer. Although she would dearly love to get mobile and start crawling, she’s fairly stationary at the moment, which is a bit of a relief for me. I’m sure it will be highly fascinating to watch her scoot around when the time comes, but for right now, it’s nice to be able to lay her down on a play mat and not have to worry about her going too far.

This little peach is 6 months old today!

Our marriage is six years old!

Today we left our baby with @holldahl.mke and went on a real date. It was scary.

Boo and I celebrated our six-year anniversary this past weekend. Another couple from our house church graciously took Finn for the evening, and we tried out a new place for supper and an old haunt for some games and drinks afterwards. Also, Boo made me three new mix tapes, which, if you know me, you know that nothing gets me more than a good mix tape ;). In our early days of courtship, we indirectly flirted with one another by trading mix tapes. Obviously, it worked.

I won’t lie – having a baby takes its toll on a relationship. We’ve had to get used to having a lot less time for slow conversations, or random movie nights, or spontaneous trips out into the city. And while it’s quite endearing to watch each other grow as parents, we still feel it’s important to focus solely on one another. I see so many new parents shift all of their attention and affection onto their kids, and justify their relationship with their spouse by saying things like, “Oh, it’s so romantic when he changes a diaper and cuddles with the baby! I love him so much for that!”  And don’t get me wrong, I love Finn, and I also love watching Boo love her, but as hard as it is to imagine, someday Finn (and her potential siblings) will head off into the world on their own. When that happens, I don’t want to feel as though Jason and I have spent two decades of our marriage ignoring one another in light of our children. So, we do what we can. Sometimes that means sitting down to a late dinner after she goes to sleep, or planning our dates around activities that can involve a jogging stroller, but I think we do a decent job of it. I still really like him :).

It's a good day in Door County, kids.

We’ve spent three years in the little house!

And we still love it here! Now that I’m home more often, I love it even more. Our neighborhood, our garden, our way of life,..everything feels just right. The very best days are days when when all three of us hang out in the yard and watch June chase squirrels and play with the neighbor’s dog. We’ve been here long enough that things look different from the year that we moved in – paint colors have changed drastically, trees that we planted are finally getting bigger, and the garden has gone from one raised bed to a beautiful potager. We’re looking forward to the days when Finn is old enough to run wild with the other kids on our street, or to build forts in the forest at Havenwoods. Life is very good here on the north side of Milwaukee.

August 26, 2014

Life as a dog parent

So. Two months later…an update on doggie ownership.

To start things out, I just want to say that whenever I feel really crummy about something that June does, I read this post and it never fails to cheer me up. Because Allie gets it – dog ownership. How it’s insane and also rewarding.

As I mentioned, June started out being very shy and submissive. After about two weeks, she warmed up to life with us and started showing more of her sparkling personality.

First, the bad:

  • She doesn’t like the existence of other dogs. At first, I thought this was limited to smaller dogs – she got a bit snippy with a neighbor’s dachshund while I was walking her one night. However, it didn’t bug us too much. She had interacted with bigger dogs and done really well. I don’t know if she was just scared out of her doggie mind for the first few weeks, but suddenly, she was a maniac to deal with in crowds with other dogs. She still retained her hatred of tiny yappers, and she also decided that bigger dogs needed to be sniffed/corralled/bullied. This made for a very embarrassing first trip to the dog park in which she would randomly bark/growl/lunge at any and every other dog and then whine pitifully when we held her back. Yeah. Thankfully, some friends of ours have a lab mix that’s just a bit bigger than her who offered to let June have a sort of “play date” and work out some of her craziness around other canines. There was some growling/snippiness at first, but then eventually June calmed down and they ended up playing with each other for a solid hour. It was reassuring to find out that our dog is not inherently doomed to behave like a mad woman around other pets. Since said play date, she’s been a bit better. Now I think she looks at other dogs as potential playmates and tries to initiate a wrestling match.
  • She looses her mind around critters. We noticed this from the get-go; the abundance of squirrels in our neighborhood had the potential to turn her from a well-behaved pup into a mindless killing machine. It’s only gotten more entertaining. The first real time it became a problem was the Saturday morning that she ran a muck through the neighbor’s backyard, bolted to the front, and proceeded to chase some bunny/squirrel/chipmunk through our entire block with gleeful abandon while I stumbled after her in my pajamas, profoundly grateful that we don’t live on a busy street.  She jumps at tree trunks. She pulls on her leash so hard that she ends up standing on her hind legs and hopping like some strange, awkward rabbit. She even tried chasing a deer while I was running with her. A deer. Seriously, what was she thinking she would do if she caught the thing?! Once, while driving on a dirt road on our last vacation, she saw a chipmunk cross in front of the car. She jumped from the backseat onto the dashboard. Good thing we were crawling along at 5mph.  
  • She pulls like a sled dog whenever we walk her. Which would be awesome if she was one. But she’s not. And I mean, I get it. She’s 32 pounds of muscle, energy, and independence. Imagine if you were bred to roam the wilds of Australia without much direction and keep unruly cattle at bay. You probably wouldn’t want to heel nicely either. Thankfully, we did discover a method for keeping her in check. Basically, we keep the leash short and take long steps in front of her. This usually calms her down and gets her to stay right alongside of us. Now if only she would do that naturally instead of lunging forward from one tree to the next at six in the morning when I’m trying to stop and pick up her poop…
  • She gets chewy. Nothing terrible. She hasn’t demolished any shoes or valuables or anything. But she does have her days where, for whatever reason, she gets anxious or bored and goes after something. The most willing victims have been the couch pillows. She likes to knock them on the floor when we’re not home and play with them. She ended up tearing up the covers I made for the ones on the white couch. We do our best to leave her with plenty of chew toys, and now we’ve taken to putting the couch pillows out of her reach when we’re gone during the day. For the most part, this works.

So, all of that aside, owning a dog is really, really wonderful. Here are some of the awesome things about it:

  • She loves people. Even if other dogs aren’t her thing, nothing makes her happier than being in a big group and getting lots of attention/pets. She’s very calm, doesn’t jump, doesn’t lick compulsively, and never shows the least bit of aggression.
  • She’s a fantastic running partner. Even though gets easily distracted by any poor rodent in the general vicinity, her endurance amazes us. She never lags or falls behind. On the contrary, she’s usually the one setting the pace. It’s so nice to have a little friend along with me when I go out for a jog.
  • Car rides aren’t an issue for her. On the contrary, she loves them. We took a long road trip around Lake Michigan recently and she did great. If we walk by the car and have a door open, she jumps into the backseat on her own. And she does this while we’re driving, which is highly entertaining:
  • She’s a great camping dog. She sleeps at our feet in the tent and hang out around the campfire without any issues. I think she actually prefers camping – it makes her feel more like a “wild dog” being outside all of the time. She also does this cute thing where she digs a little hole for herself in the dirt and curls up in it:
  • She’s a canoe champion:
  • We know our neighbors better because we’re out walking her all the time. Seriously, if you want to meet the people that live around you, get a dog. I feel like we’ve connected so much more with the folks in our neighborhood because everyone wants to meet our dog. For the most part, I think it breaks down barriers. People view you in a warmer light when you’re out with your pup. The kids all know June by name and come over in our yard to say “Hi” whenever they see her. It’s great.
  • She’s so excited to be with us. Her little tail stump goes crazy whenever we walk in the door, or when we wake up to take her for a walk. It’s such a good feeling, knowing that your pet is always there to greet you and roll around ecstatically no matter what kind of a day you’ve had or what kind of a person you’ve been in that day. She keeps us company if we don’t feel good or if we’re tired or sad. She hangs out in the yard while we work in the gardens. She sleeps at the foot of our bed every night. It gives you a whole multitude of warm feels to have such a sweet little friend hanging out around your house all the time. Totally makes up for any of her craziness.

Thanks for being our friend and putting up with all of our weird antics, June Bug. Hopefully we’ll have many more years of car rides, camping, jogs, and canoe trips.

January 17, 2014

Remember when?

I used to actually blog?

The ironic part is that I’ve been editing a novel instead of writing a blog. Yes, the writer doesn’t have time for writing.

I would like to get better about it, especially now that I’m ramping up for the 2014 garden season. Soon, I’ll have to place my seed order and then it really won’t be long before I start my onions.

Suffice to say, this has been a pretty intense winter so far! The snow started back in November:

Guess I should have taken the laundry off of the clothesline. Anyway, it just kept going. At first, we liked it – we were excited to have a white Christmas for once! Usually, the snow doesn’t stick until the lake cools down – about mid-January.

Jason’s probably shoveled more snow in the past two months than he did all of last winter. Suffice to say, it gets old after awhile. Case in point:

This was after a very cold run that we took in Brown Deer Park on Christmas Eve. The moisture from his breath/sweat froze right on him. This just might be the cover of our Christmas card next year…

Along those lines, we had a lovely holiday.

Being a part of a home church is more like having another family to be around. It’s a beautiful mix of being very festive and also very wholesome. We did a Christmas Eve-Eve service at our house on the 23rd, with just a handful of people who could make it. Awkward bumbling through Christmas carols and discussions about the stark contrast of the over-commercialized, over-purified versions of celebrating that time of year vs. the reality of the Messiah being born to an unwed, pregnant teenager ensued.

 

For our December service project, we gathered together (in a snowstorm) to assemble sandwiches and make cookies for a local men’s shelter. This is what happens when you have graphic designers frosting cookies:

Overall, there was much baking and merry-making to be had.

However, we were both relieved when the holidays were finished. As much as we love our family and friends, as introverts it gets to be really exhausting to run around from house to house and have so much stimulation. If I was at your house at some point over the Christmas/New Year period, please don’t be offended – chances are that I had a wonderful time. But, I have to be real and admit that too much activity wears me out, especially when it’s almost three weeks of it.

Which mostly brings us up to date. We’re now enjoying a fairly quiet January, getting a kick out of the birds that hang out in our Forsythia bush all day and the cat who will stop at nothing to keep tabs on them:

Jason bought me a gallon of safflower seeds for the bird feeders as a Christmas gift because apparently, the squirrels don’t like it. So far, it’s worked! We’ve seen lots of birds at the feeders and no greedy squirrels:

Other than wildlife viewing and editing, I’m drawing silly pictures, working on applications for going back to school (what? Yes. More on that later) and making giant pots of soup. Jason is finally getting comfortable enough with his table saw to use it, and is planning on purchasing the wood for building a workbench this weekend. We have some weekend trips planned to various Wisconsin locales, and at some point we intend to paint the hallway.

And now that we’re all caught up, let’s hope that I blog on a more regular basis and don’t have to bombard you all with these types of posts…

In other words, happy winter from Milwaukee!

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October 4, 2013

The Quest for Clean – Paper Trail

Because I never really had settled into a “permanent” home, I always had some stuff that I stored at my parent’s house. Most of these things were boxes of notebooks from Jr. High and High School, or research papers from college. I brought a couple back with me over the summer and looked through them. What I found was a lot of really dramatic, poorly-written poetry from ages 15-18, taking up space in spiral-bound notebooks.

Now, I personally believe it’s important to keep some record of these things. They’re a reflection of who I was at that point in life. As awful and embarrassing as some of that stuff is, I wouldn’t want it to disappear from the planet forever.

So, I made a decision that I’m really pleased with: scan all of those pages, and then shred and compost the actual physical notebooks. No physical space taken up, and plus I get some carbon for my compost pile out of the deal! I’ll be doing the same with my college papers. Again, they’re something that I want to be able to access but not necessarily something I need to have taking up space in my home.

The one thing that I’m fine keeping “in the flesh” are my journals. I kept a journal all through high school, and still do at times. I often put thought into purchasing a journal, and I actually like to be able to hold them in my hands and re-read them. Those are sort of scattered all over at this point, and I’d really like to have them all together in one dedicated spot.

What about you? What do you do with your papers?

October 3, 2013

The Quest for Clean – Craftiness

I consider myself a textile artist – I use fabric and other textiles (yarn included) to create. Everything, even the practical things, should be creative and unique. But herein lies the problem with being an artist – you have to walk a fine balance between having enough creative components around you to function, and not being a scary hoarder. I’ve heard horror stories about kids cleaning out houses of women who did quilting or sewing and had piles and piles of fabric sitting all over the place. I desperately want to avoid that!

I’ve gotten better over the years. I’ve ceased taking trips to the fabric store “just because” and buying any type of pretty fabric that caught my eyes. Nowadays, I usually only buy new fabric if I have a need for it. I still run into trouble with used fabric (what! a whole bag of quilt squares for only $4?) but I’ve started to filter that as well.

Life might be easier if I chose just one specific type of sewing – garment construction, home decorating, or quilting. But alas, I don’t think I’ll ever be content limiting myself that way. So I end up with big panels of nicer fabric for clothes, vintage linens and canvases for home stuff, and lots of little bits and pieces for quilting-type projects. If I let things get out of hand, it can easily become nightmarish. And do you know what happens if I let a space get crowded and cluttered? I don’t want to work in it. So, nothing gets used.

Here is my plan to tackle the fabric stash:

  • So no to scraps. I keep scraps almost compulsively. But do you know how often I actually pull out the scrap bin and rifle through it? Almost never. I’m going to sit down one of these days and shred my scrap bin into smaller pieces, bag it, and use it for stuffing pillows and such. It would free up some space on my fabric shelves, and I’m all about that.
  • Say no…in general. When people find out that you’re a textile artist, they tend to want to give you fabric/yarn/crafty things in abundance. Some of it might be really nice wool yarn or vintage fabrics. And some of it might be crappy acrylic yarn or weird flannel from the 1980’s. Regardless, I just need to learn to say “no” to things that I honestly know I won’t use.
  • Be ruthless with the refab bin. I have a bin of clothes that either Jason or I discarded but I kept for the fabric. Again, I hardly ever touch the stuff, and I need to be honest about this.
  • Purge, purge, purge. I oftentimes buy fabric for a specific need (Christmas stocking for my in-laws, pajama pants for my nieces, etc) in patterns that I wouldn’t really use for anything else. I typically keep the leftovers. I need to go through and get rid of these things. Which brings me on to my next step…
  • There is no such things as “just in case”. Seriously. I need to stop keeping stuff that I’m not in love with “just in case”. Because the truth is, I’m almost always getting coupons or gift cards for the fabric store and if I really, really need something, I can go out and buy it. Or, I could be the creative artist I always say that I am and make something awesome with what I have.
  • Make more, make better. I made some bunting for a party we threw this summer. It was something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, it used up a ton of scraps, and I liked it so much that I left some up in the yard all year. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner. Once a week this year, I want to commit to making one thing that either makes our home more beautiful, has a practical purpose, or can be worn by one of us on a semi-regular basis.
  • Start selling again. I talk myself out of selling my homemade wares all. the . time. And I just need to stop this. I can knit a really awesome hat. I can sew cool things. It doesn’t hurt me to throw this stuff up in my etsy shop here and there and maybe even make a couple of bucks.

My end goal is to have no extra piles of fabric or yarn on the floor or in boxes anywhere in the sewing room. Right now, I have some of that going on and it’s grossing me out. Ideally, I’d like to get things into tip-top shape before I start making stuff for Christmas. Which means I should really start plotting out what I’m going to make everyone for Christmas…(yes, I know it’s September).

October 2, 2013

The Quest for Clean – The Closet

I’ve mentioned before how much I love my closet space in this house. Basically, everything I wear is located here. I do have four dresser drawers for socks, undies, pajamas, and tank-tops, but it’s only a few feet away.

When I’m lying in bed, I face my closet. Having lived in this house now for over a year, I’ve spent enough mornings facing this closet for me to slowly start to understand that, in all it’s nice “togetherness” it isn’t the organized space I want it to be.

Don’t get me wrong…I’ve seen worse. And on most days, there is no “cramming” that has to happen in order for all of my clean clothes to fit. I have a pretty loose rule in effect that I won’t buy something new (this includes thrifted clothes) if I don’t get rid of something at home. It helps me to think of it this way – I only have so many hangers and if I am going to bring something home to hang up, I need to somehow free up a hanger. That’s not to say that I haven’t bought new hangers at all in the past year. Or that I haven’t occasionally raided Jason’s closet for a hanger when I was one short.

But the fact remains that I like clothes. My problem with them is three-fold:

  1. They’re fun. They’re sort of a form of art for me. Working in an office makes me want lots of unique, different things to wear every day instead of just a few boring basics. And that becomes part of my problem – I have lots of unique and different things, both for work and for home. And many of them are so unique that it’s hard to pair them up into an outfit.
  2. I love to visit the thrift store. I like it too much. It’s a thrill – you never know what you might find. And while I always go in with the intent to only buy something if I need it or if it’s really nice quality (a good wool sweater, a vintage dress, etc) I often walk away with a few handfuls of sub-par crap that I didn’t really need but looked good on me.
  3. I sew clothes. This in an of itself creates problems because they’re not just something I wear, they’re something I birth and I get attached. The only other articles of clothing I get attached to are ones that people I love buy me as gifts – it’s that bad. The problem is, my sewing levels are constantly improving and I have quite a few shirts that I made six years ago that don’t fit right or just aren’t holding together well. Those should go. But oftentimes they don’t.

I want to drastically scale my closet down, and I want it to be better organized. I know it may never be as clean and neat as I’m dreaming it will be, but I want to at least set some ground rules and begin to establish some lifelong habits. If we have kids, I want them to see me modeling good organizational habits. I don’t want them to see me buying things to make myself feel better, or keeping something that isn’t serving a purpose.

Here is the plan:

  • Pull everything out and go through each item, one by one. I will have three piles: Keep, maybe, and toss. All of the “toss” pile will either go to Goodwill or will get saved for the next clothing swap I attend.
  • The “keep” pile will go back into my closet with the hangers facing towards me. I’m actually hoping that there will be very few clothes that make this cut!
  • The “maybe” pile will also go back into the closet, but with the hangers facing away from me. Over the next six months (because I rotate clothes seasonally) I will make an intentional effort to wear these garments and decide if I like how they fit, how they look, if they’re my style, etc. There’s no better way to decide if you should keep something than actually wearing it. In fact, I wore a shirt on Monday that I was on the fence about and decided it needed to go.
  • After the six months have passed, I will hopefully not have any “maybe” clothes left. If any clothes on hangers are still facing away from me, they will go. Clearly, despite best intentions, I have not wanted to wear those items for whatever reason and they don’t belong in my closet.
  • After that, I will use the hanger system over six-month periods to maintain a sane level of clothes.

I do have a few piles of folded clothes – pants, t-shirts, workout clothes, some sweaters, etc. I think in my ideal closet, everything is on a hanger. But in the meantime, I will try to manage the piles differently – make a “keep” pile and a “maybe” pile and employ same strategy for my clothes on hangers.

So, there’s the plan for my closet. I’ll try to remember to check back in six months and let you know how things went!

October 1, 2013

The Quest for Clean

Friends, I have a confession: I struggle with clutter. I am, by nature, a bit of a packrat. I always have been. Typically, this happens for two reason:

  1. I get sentimentally attached to something – that shirt that someone bought me, that fabric that I got on a particularly memorably thrifting adventure, or that giant box of stuffed animals from my childhood. Oftentimes, even when I know I should get rid of something, it takes me a few years to let go of the attachment enough so that I can actually get rid of the thing.
  2. I hate waste. I hate paying money for something and then two months later thinking about the fact that I paid money for it and now don’t like it and really should get rid of it. I hate making something and investing my time in it, only to have it turn out sub-par and not do what it was intended to do. I hate tossing clothes that I know I could use for fabric scraps if I was just “ambitious” or “creative” enough. I feel weird just putting stuff in a bag for the thrift store when I wonder if my sister or my niece or a friend would maybe want to look at it first.

Now, having been through ten moves since turning 19 (that’s more than 1 move a year, on average!) I have at least been able to identify my packrat tendencies and attempt to keep them under control.  I’ve learned to identify certain types of clothing that I like wearing and always want in my closet. I’ve learned the basic types and colors of shoes that I like. I’ve learned what fabrics and yarns and other craft supplies I just don’t need to keep on hand. This has helped us maintain a fairly neat and uncluttered home. But I’ve always sort of been in “maintenance mode”, i.e. do a quick purge when things seem to be getting overwhelming. I’ve never taken a very pro-active stance on things – not buying what I don’t need in the first place, having regularly scheduled purges, etc.

Besides, clutter scares me after a certain point. It makes me really, really anxious. Something in my personality likes to be able to look at the space around me and evaluate what’s in it, why is it there, where did it come from, etc. And when there’s too much stuff for me to be able to do this, I get nervous and overwhelmed and want to start throwing things away.

As we are entering into the cooler months of the year, I am feeling a new desire to trim down the clutter. I mean, I will be mostly stuck inside for four months…why not use that time to make our indoor space more enjoyable and organized?

I’ve always been terrified by some of the more die-hard minimalists. They get sort of fanatical about it – kind of like people who suddenly get really into fitness. Or some new vein of theology. That being said, while I would like to share part of this resolve on the blog, I will do my best to be calm and gentle about it and not make you feel like a bad person if you choose to keep that one dress “just in case”.

So, here we go. The next few posts will be about tackling various areas around the house and how I intend to declutter or organize them. Feel free to follow along!

September 30, 2013

‘Tis the Season

For mums and cornstalks and gourds, naturally:

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Yesterday, I went over to Bayside Garden Center to pick up some tulip bulbs and seed garlic, and while I’m not usually one to spend money on flowers that are just for a short season, they had really good prices on mums, asters, and ornamental cabbage, so I loaded up. I’m waiting a little while longer to harvest my three Cinderalla pumpkins – I want to decorate with them, but I also want one or two to last long enough for making my own pumpkin puree. I’ve also been harvesting the corn bit by bit, and as after I take the ears off I cut down the stalk, so they’ll be more bundles in the upcoming weeks :).

We’ve had beautiful weather the past week – warm and sunny. As is normal in the fall, I find myself mimicing the squirrels and trying to get everything in order for winter. It’s mostly looked like a lot of cleaning – the poly house, the front porch, the gardens that are done producing…I’m also feeling the urge to go after my closet in a ruthless manner and have a serious decluttering session. More on that later.

Well, the only issue with all of this is that it’s also the season for colds. Neither Jason or I often get sick, but we were on vacation earlier this month and spent many, many hours on planes and buses and trains and I think the result of it was that we came into contact with a bad virus that’s kept us functioning at minimum efficiency for the past week. The fact that I felt good enough to go run errands AND clean the porch all in one day is progress :/. I’m not a fan at all of taking over-the-counter stuff; instead, I’ve been loading up on herbal teas, raw honey, apple cider vinegar, Vitamin C, and LOTS of rest. Even though it’s taking a long time to kick this cold, it’s nice to know that I’m building my body up while I heal instead of messing around with weird-colored syrups and pills. True story: I once cured myself of a 4-month cough that antibiotics, inhalers, and cough syrup hadn’t helped at all by drinking diluted ACV every night.

Anyway, autumn is going to be a season of planning for the garden and I’m excited to share some of those plans! As I start to feel better and have more energy, look for more posts.

July 5, 2013

The Animal Kingdom – A girl can dream!

After Tuesday’s very epic ladybug release, I thought it would be appropriate to do a series on different animals we’re considering sometime in the future. I’ll devote a day to each type of animal; the benefits, the costs, the stuff I’m worried about, and the things we would need to learn or adapt our home to.

As of right now, in addition to 1,500 aphid eaters, we have a cat, Clarice:

I’ve already blogged about her usefulness as a member of the homestead – she really, really keeps pests down in the house. Even with the wet weather we’ve had, I’ve seen very few insects inside this summer.

In my opinion, cats are perfect companions, if you find one with the right temperament. Clarice is extremely low-maintenance; she likes her pets and getting her bowl filled every day, but it’s no stress at all for us to be away from her all day or even all weekend. When we go on trips longer than four days, we arrange for someone to come by and check her food, but that’s nothing compared to the needs of some animals.

Which brings me to a more sobering point when it comes to the animal world – our current lifestyle isn’t exactly conducive to owning anything other than a cat. It’s a hard reality that we’ve struggled with. Both of us are away at work during the week, and sometimes we have evening commitments as well. We also enjoy the freedom of being able to get away some weekends, and we try to take a nice, long vacation once a year. If we owned even half of the animals I’d like to own, every one of those days we’re gone represents the need to coordinate care for them at least once a day, if not more in some cases.

When I try to research what the practicalities are of raising some of these animals, I often run across blogs from some of the more diehard types who gush on and on about the amazingwonderfulglorious benefits and delights in their livestock. Or, I come across some extremely embittered soul who tried raising ducks or goats and had a terrible time with it because they just weren’t prepared for the responsibility. What I would love to find is practical research from someone right smack in the middle of those two lines of thought. Preferably someone who lived in a major city and maybe also held a job outside of the house, even on a part-time basis. And took vacations once in awhile.

This is one of my biggest beefs (haha) when I read homesteading blogs – it seems like some of these modern farmers just aren’t able to have a life outside of their barnyard. Which, please, don’t get me wrong, if that’s what you WANT your life to look like, then that’s fantastic. But that is NOT what Jason and I want our lives to look like, at least not entirely. I’d like to be home more, I’d like to be in the community more, but traveling and having adventures is a big part of who we are also. You can’t just pack up a flock of chickens into your car and drive down the road…

That being said…good things do come to those who wait. The reality is that neither of us want to continue with our current work situations forever. We’re both doing small things to help make these changes happen, and in an ideal world both of us are able to be home more and work less. I won’t get into the specifics just yet, but I have good faith in the idea that within five years one (or hopefully both!) of us will be home throughout most of the day.

Of course, changing our work situation doesn’t exactly solve the problem of animals needing daily care while we’re on vacation. Enter the virtue of patience once again – in our ideal world, we have really solid relationships with a few of the neighbor kids and allow them to earn some cash and some mad skills by hiring them as temporary farm hands. Now, granted, this has the potential to be messy (escapee chickens and runaway pups come to mind) and would require a LOT of trust for both parties involved. Trust that takes time to build up. But how cool would it be to be able to provide eggs for all of our neighbors? Or to show rabbits at the fair that were raised not just by me, but by the community?

When I think of homesteading being done this way, it gives me the freedom to dream bigger dreams. This is how it should happen in the city. This is how someone could learn the art of self-sufficiency – by actually reaching out and saying, “I need help. Let’s do this together”.

So, with all of that in mind, tune in tomorrow for our second installation of the Animal Kingdom (aka Johanna’s delusional dreams about being a crazy pet lady).