May 31, 2011

Moving: Out.. No, Really. O-U-T.

We moved into the new house a month ago this week. Moving in took some pre-work and some hard work on moving day, but it went fairly smooth and stayed on schedule. Moving OUT of the old house? Not so much - it's been neither smooth nor on-schedule.

Almost every day since we moved, I have visited the old house, picking up a few things here and there, sorting things, shuffling them around. But still there was a LOT of stuff to contend with. Some of it we need, some of it we don't, and some of it I'm not sure if we need or not.

But it's time to quit dithering and decide what moves and what gets sold or donated or just plain tossed. This past weekend, I hauled a carload of books to the Friends of the Library (they sell them and use the proceeds to help support our Linebaugh Libraries), and a couple carloads of other stuff back to the new house.  The boys helped Mr. Official clear the attics on Monday. It was blazing hot outside and even hotter in that attic. But they hauled it all down and we sorted and stockpiled. Every family member has a pile, and there's a massive and growing pile for a garage sale (coming soon!)

After we finished that exhausting exercise, I continued tidying and cleaning, picking and choosing. The big curbside trashcans were empty and are now full again. The garage sale pile is steadily growing.

I'm giving everyone a week to cull through their own stuff and decide what they are keeping and what they aren't. Oldest son has the biggest pile (and ironically, an attic of his own to haul it to.) Hopefully by next week at this time, the garage will be empty except for the garage sale pile, and by the week after that, THAT stuff will be gone too. In the meantime, the painters are lined up and ready to start painting. I hope. Because I'm ready for them to start and the paint is waiting in the den for them to begin.

We are meeting with our Realtor to discuss the market analysis she's prepared, and we hope there will soon be a "For Sale" sign in the yard of this newly painted and spiffed up house.

Happy moving, for reals.

May 30, 2011

My wild goose chase

Not literally, although with our quasi-farmlife now, that is always a possibility.

No, this is about a skirmish in my never-ending quest for organization.

In the old house, I had a nice wall-mounted ironing board. Very handy and folded away when not in use. This laundry room is not configured in a way that lends itself to another one of those, so I'm back to a regular ironing board. I went so far as to haul my original one out of the shed, but it is almost 30 years old. The rubber leg covers are dry rotted and it's rusty. Time for a new one.

So I bought one around the date we started moving in. And as I recently realized, it has sat unused - in its plastic wrap! - for a few weeks now. But I'm sure some day it will get used and in order to keep it neat, I really need (yes, need) one of those organizers that holds both the iron and the ironing board. (I'm sure my iron is on pins and needles, waiting for a new home, else it would have been over here weeks ago.)

I went looking for a wall-mounted holder, specifically one with a metal or silicone plate back so a still-hot iron can be placed in it without scorching the wall while it cools. What I found is that such a creature is nearly impossible to find locally.

I tried. I really tried. I went to four stores (three in one trip just for this object), and came home empty-handed:

WalMart - nope.
Home Depot - nada.
Lowe's - had one but it was not worth the price.
Target - has one online, but locally, nothing.

True to form, off to Amazon I went. Found this model by Brabantia.  (I have two of their stainless steel trashcans, and love them. Here's hoping this is as well-designed and sturdy.)

Who knew this would be so difficult to find?
Question:  Why is it so hard to find a selection of ironing board holders these days?

Possible answers:
A. More people using the built-in or over-the-door ironing boards, and don't need them.
B. When it comes to ironing, more of us are opting for wrinkle releaser whenever possible.
C. More of us just don't iron at all.


Happy chasing those wild geese,

May 29, 2011

Summer 2011: And so it begins...

Around here, summer is generally bookended in by Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.  If we're lucky, July 4th lands on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday and creates a tri-fected mid-summer long weekend. (The odds are in our favor on that one.)

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. As of this weekend, we can now officially herald the beginning of true summer weather here in middle Tennessee, and most of the U.S. (But not Chicago and the entire state of Colorado - I've seen enough cold temps and even snow in late May in those areas to exclude them from that sweeping generalization.)

And for places farther south of here, summer begins much earlier as this popular list declares:

Mr. Official and I typically spend the summer holiday weekends grinding away on one or more projects that we are eager to tackle.  This year, we have a plethora of projects to choose from:  fences, moving stuff, and setting up for our all-summer VBS (aka SBV) at church. Or all of the above.

Amid the hustle and bustle, I hope we all take some time to pause and remember and honor those for whom this weekend is specifically dedicated.  Our country is so richly blessed with freedoms and liberties that other nations don't dare dream of having.  I fear familiarity breeds contempt and our personal freedoms are being traded for the illusion of security, which - as Ben Franklin put it, if you sacrifice one for the other, you deserve neither.  (Smart man, that Mr. Franklin.  We could use a few more like him these days.)

I pray for all our troops actively serving in foreign lands.  A few of you I know, most of you I do not.  But I do deeply appreciate the job you do and the dangers you face with courage and conviction.  May God bless you and your families, and keep you safe while you keep us safe.

Now, if I can just make sure I don't blink and miss summer as it revs up into high gear and speeds along toward Labor Day weekend, pausing just long enough to celebrate the 4th of July in between.

Happy weekend and happy summer!

May 28, 2011

Tying up loose ends

I have issues with ends and endings.  Run-on sentences that don't end?  Guilty.  Crying at happy endings? Again, affirmative.  Split ends? I don't want to talk about it, but thanks for noticing.

But mainly, loose ends.  You know, those projects that get *almost* done?  Everything except one, (usually tiny), final step.  I tell myself I'll get around to that last bit...tomorrow.  Or eventually.  But I don't. Which is how we wound up living with unfinished trim in our bonus room for two (or was it three?) years.  It's why I am hauling several tubs of half-finished (or never-even-started!) craft projects out of the attic of the old house, and trying to decide what to take and what to leave.  (Well, donate or throw away.  I wouldn't actually LEAVE them in the old house.)  It's why I'm STILL hauling stuff out of the old house, even though we officially moved three weeks ago.

New house, fresh start, new resolve.  It's time to start finishing things before I start something else.  To that end, I am dedicating this summer to tying up all the loose ends of moving and settling in.  By the time Labor Day (and football season) rolls around, I hope I can pronounce them all finished, as far as the eye can see.  So every week this summer, I'll update you with my efforts...successful or not.

I figure it's good to start with baby steps - something fast, easy, and almost fun.  Like hanging a wood blind.

When we were preparing to move into this house, all window blinds were hung, except one.  (Apparently the former owners were had "loose end" issues, too.)  "How hard can this be?" I thought as I snagged some brackets on a trip to Lowe's.  Harder than I thought - the blind is bigger than the brackets I bought.

Undaunted, I went online and discovered the world of "high profile" vs. "low profile" blinds.  I got sidetracked and it wasn't until a few weeks had past that I remembered to order the brackets (sidenote:  if you need blind parts, check eBay; wayyyy cheaper than the blind replacement specialty e-tailers.)  And a few days later, they showed up.   Thank goodness eBay sellers and mail carriers follow through, even when I forget what I ordered.

Before: window clear, floor covered
Before I made this resolution, those brackets would have sat around for several days, eventually shuffled into a junk drawer or tucked away in some obscure location, never to be seen or thought of  again.  Not this time.  As of yesterday, the blind is hung (thanks to middle son for his help.)  Yes, that's the valance leaning up against the bookcase.  No, it's not hung. (The clips I ordered were for the wrong size - gahhh!  But  I have contacted the seller to arrange for a return and exchange.)  And in the interest of full disclosure, after I took these before-and-after shots, I had to locate a tilt wand. They're not as easy to find as you might imagine. Fortunately an extra old blind at the old house had one that was the right size.  But I did, and I got it installed - another loose end tied tight.

While we were in the bonus room/man cave with ladder and screwdrivers handy, I also re-attached the fan canopies and air duct vents that we loosened so we could paint this room before we moved in.

(The more I think about it, the more I am convinced this "loose end syndrome"  is a debilitating affliction, perhaps a disability.  It's definitely a congenital defect, as our children suffer from it, too.)

After:  window covered, floor clear

Since we were on a roll, I also put away the boxes we used to hold files during the move (yeah, I know how many days ago that was) and tidied and vacuumed.  The man cave is not finished yet, but it definitely looks better than it did before we hung that blind!  What a difference tying up just one little loose end can make.

I'm not sure what my next loose end(s) to tie up will be...probably whatever has me at my wit's end and fit to be tied.  Stay tuned!

Here's to a summer of happy tying,

May 27, 2011

Ze pond! Ze pond!

Some (okay, MOST) of you are probably too young to get that pop culture reference to the late 1970s show, "Fantasy Island." But Tatto's famous words came to mind when I looked at our pond yesterday and could finally see the little fishing dock and the rocks that are supposed to ring the edge of it. They've been hidden under at least 15 to 20 inches of water for months now. Since we first toured the house in December, I don't think we've ever seen the rocks when they weren't submerged - until now. But that means some edge-of-pond landscaping can begin. Perfect timing: my Louisiana irises are through blooming for the season (as skimpy as their blooms were in their present dry abode.)

So this Memorial Day weekend will find me and my trusty little shovel digging away, getting some things planted. And hoping that we get typical summer rainfall all summer long, so the pond doesn't completely dry up.

Happy ponding!

May 25, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Spaghetti Sauce

I confess, I rarely make my own from-scratch spaghetti sauce - I either use a mix and some tomato paste, or a jar of vodka sauce.  (Heresy, I know.) 

But when I do make sauce from scratch, this is my go-to recipe.  It was shared with me by my sister-in-law Donna, who is an excellent (if irregular) cook and a gracious and talented dinner hostess.  I think her sauce has a perfect blend of seasonings, and it's easy to mix together with staples I always have on hand; in fact, we had enjoyed it last night on a break from our low-carb dinner plan.

Next week I will post another Donna's recipe; it's for homemade raviolis, which a longtime friend (and maid-of-honor in my wedding) showed me how to make many many years ago.

And  in case you're wondering, yes - the two recipes can be used together and become doubly delicious.  Thank you to both Donnas for our long friendships and sharing these recipes with me.

Donna's Spaghetti Sauce

1 pound ground beef
1 can diced tomatoes (I used stewed with Italian seasonings; I also puree them before adding to the sauce)
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon onion flakes
2 cloves garlic

Brown ground beef and drain.  Add other ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes.  Serve over warm cooked spaghetti noodles or other pasta.

Happy cooking,

May 23, 2011

Our Laundry Fairy's Tale

When we moved a couple weeks ago, the washer came with us. The gas dryer did not because the house doesn't have gas.

It's no big deal - we have been back-and-forth enough to carry a load over to dry and/or carry a dried load home every other day or so. And the Laundry Fairy has done remarkably well at keeping the laundry caught up, and folding the clothes as soon as they came home.  I've been pretty proud of her, actually.

On Friday, Mr. Official decided it was time to quit dallying and get a new dryer, so we ordered one and it was delivered yesterday.  Good call - now we can wash and dry clothes much easier.

Yesterday - for the first time since we moved in - I realized the iron did not make the trip.  Some linen napkins came through that absolutely positively must be pressed before they can be put away.

Now that I think about it, the Downy Wrinkle Release (magical stuff) is still at the old place, too.  So for 16 days, not a single blessed piece of clothing we've worn has been touched with an iron.  And thinking back, I'm not sure anything got ironed during the two week paint-and-move-a-thon.

I'm still trying to figure out how the Laundry Fairy has managed to totally avoid ironing for the better part of a month.  If you have seen us with wrinkled clothes and were simply too kind to say anything, thanks.

Happy Monday!

May 21, 2011

It's the little things.

Our shower saga continues. Every day we pass by our gorgeous new shower, which has yet to be used.  Because it has no door.  The door is ordered, and is promised (pinky promised) for delivery next Tuesday.  (I'm holding you to that, Mr. Shower Door Guy!)

So in the meantime, we have used the upstairs shower (nothing like feeling like a houseguest in your own home, shlepping towel and toiletries in and out of someone else's bathroom...) On workout mornings, we have availed ourselves of the YMCA's showers.

The Y's showers are like most public showers:  hit or miss. Some have broken knobs or drippy showerheads, some have skimpy shower curtains, some don't get much water pressure or much hot water, or both.  I think I've personally identified all the sub-par showers on the women's side.  But a few mornings ago, as I turned off my shower, I heard another one going. Full blast.  And lots of steam rolling out, like it was a nice HOT shower.  I made a mental note of the location and checked myself into that shower stall yesterday morning after a 5K run.  I counted it pure joy.  It blasted me with hot water, and lots of it. And a shower curtain that didn't gap and flap in the breeze.

When we were driving home I mentioned my happy discovery to Mr. Official.  His response? 
"I bet our new shower will have great pressure and lots of hot water too...if we ever get to use it."

Here's to showers of blessings, and lessons of patience.  And to nice hot showers.

Happy day!

May 20, 2011

Has anyone seen last week? I can't find it.

We closed on our new home (it's no longer a house but it is now home!) four weeks ago yesterday. We spent that afternoon mowing the knee-high grass and pulling weeds from the flower beds, and the next day tearing out the shower in the master bath.  That's just how we celebrate home ownership, I guess.

Week 1, the "real" work began - painting five rooms in five days. Mid-week an early morning storm cut a swath about a half-mile from the house and tore out power lines, so our five days were squeezed into four. But we (middle son, swimmer girl and I) finished on time.

Week 2 saw a frenzy of cleaning and moving in. From crown molding to quarter round, everything got a good wiping down. Mirrors and pictures were hung, dishes were transported, washed and put away. On Friday morning, the movers came and carefully carted our furniture and placed it just-so. Best of all, it all fit exactly where we needed it to go.  We were in!

But week 3 (last week) is blurry. I was supposed to finish cleaning out the old house and get it ready for painting. It didn't happen.  One week overdue and I'm barely halfway to that goal (and that's being generous.)

Somewhere I lost last week.

I know I was busy, but I don't have anything to show for it. I'd like to think I consciously chose a week of downtime to recharge, but I fear I didn't.

It's a muddle, I tell ya.

Week 4 has been another whirlwind of activity, trying to make up for last week's sub-par productivity. In spare moments, I've been cleaning the old house bit by bit and we finally put some trim in place that should have been down several years ago. As Mr. Official said when we left there a few nights ago,  "We've done nothing but work on that house. We worked on it before we moved in, we worked on it after we moved in, and we're still working on it after we moved out." Which is one of the reasons we were careful to choose a turnkey house this time around.

Word to the wise: you do not double your joy when you double your home ownership. We hope this situation is very temporary. (June 1 is our date to have it ready to be shown - and hopefully sold quickly. The sooner, the better.)  And if you see my lost week, will you send it to me?  I could really use that time next week.

Happy Friday,

May 18, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Fresh Cucumber Pickles

One of the most common summertime salads I enjoyed growing up was fresh pickles, which we called "bellyachers" (because if you eat too many servings, your stomach will protest.) When cucumbers are running out your ears, this is a good way to create a piquant side dish that goes well with beef, pork and chicken.

Grandma's "Bellyacher" Fresh PIckles

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 small sweet onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup mild vinegar (I prefer red wine vinegar, but white will do)
1-2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Place vinegar and sugar in serving bowl. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add cucumbers and onion, toss to coat. Adjust ratio of vinegar and sugar to taste; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few hours. You can also double or triple this recipe if serving a crowd. Leftovers may be refrigerated for up to a day.

Happy eating,

May 16, 2011

Some new twists on old favorites

My office is in the new kitchen. That's both good and bad: I'm finding the kitchen stays cleaner (the opposite of "out of sight, out of mind" I guess), but it also seems to just beckon me to come cook or bake something.

Since we moved in (just over a week ago!), I think I've used nearly every pot and pan and utensil I own (and a good majority of my serving dishes too.) We've enjoyed chicken piccata over vegetable pasta, twice-baked potatoes and grilled steaks, even pancakes and bacon (that was definitely a "holiday" from our regular low-carb regimen.)

But my real joy of cooking rests in baking, especially sweet treats. I spent Mother's Day afternoon making banana bread with a batch of too-ripe bananas. I made three big loaves: one for here, one for Mr. Official to take to work, and one for a friend who pleaded for one while she was homesick and overseas. She's now home, and this was a belated welcome home gift.

I've also taken some twists on a couple tried-and-true recipes. When moving, I discovered I had two bottles of lime juice. So Miss JoAnn's Lemon Bars became Lime Bars (and promptly vanished into thin air just like the lemon variety tends to do.)

An extra bag of raisins (which were no longer plump and soft) were the inspiration for raisin pinwheel cookies. I used my grandmother's recipe for date pinwheels and substituted raisins (with a dash of cinnamon) for the dates in the filling. I don't think I've ever made pinwheel cookies except at the holidays, until now. Now they might become another everyday favorite.  Hint:  they were better the second day.  And gone by the third.

Hmmm. I wonder what other recipes I can take for a spin in my new kitchen?  Yesterday was national chocolate chip day; I bet I could find a chocolate chip recipe to turn on its head.

Happy baking,

May 13, 2011

Containing the chaos

When I get in a garden center, my sensibilities tend to take flight and leave me wandering around dazed and confused.  I love plants, and all those rows of beautiful blooming bedding plants are as tempting to me as a candy store is to a kid.

I buy plants on a whim - some of these, a few of those.  I have no plan, no list, no vision for how I'm going to use them.  So when I get home, my purchases typically look like this:

But several years of frenetic plant shopping have taught me a few things, like:

1. Buy plants in pairs.   I can at least create symmetrical containers.  (Or in threesomes or foursomes if I'm doing baskets or a trio of planters.)
2.  Consider shapes.  Like people, plants come in all shapes and sizes.  A good mix of tall spiky and trailing stuff will offset all the bushy plants.
3.  Double-check sun/shade requirements.  Neither parched, scorched plants nor lanky, anemic-looking plants are attractive for the long haul of summer.  Fortunately I have lots of both sun and shade.

I tend to gravitate toward purples and oranges (often at the same time), with lots of chartreuse foliage thrown in for good measure, but I know eventually these colors can and will be separated into groupings that won't assault a visitor's senses when they approach our doors.

After a little arranging and rearranging, the chaos starts to shape up into this:

Caladiums, orange Diascia and burgundy spikes

More caladiums, purple shamrocks, lilac ivy geraniums

Plectranthus, Streptocarpellas, fiber optic grass & another Plectranthus

And here they are, all lined up and waiting to be slipped into their containers.

The plants in front are for a trio of deck containers...
And...a few days later, here they are in their new homes:

Trio on the back deck
Two more on the back deck, catching some morning sun

Two new containers flanking the dining room doors

Closeup of one of the two pots next to the front door
Over the next few weeks, with plenty of water and warm temps, they should plump up and fill out their containers.  Chaos is under control once again.

Happy planting,

May 11, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Hot Chili Cheese Dip

This dip is embarrassingly easy, but always goes over well, especially in the cooler months when guests tend to gravitate toward warm comfort foods. I like it because it is a change of pace from the typical cheddar or Velveeta-based dips. My mom gets the credit for the recipe, and it's the main reason I have always had a "half pint" size crockpot in my cabinet.

Hot Chili Cheese Dip

1 can chili (with or without beans)
1 9-ounce package cream cheese (regular or low-fat)

Mix together in a small crockpot and stir a few times as the cheese melts and the chii heats up. Serve with corn chip "scoops" or sturdy tortilla chips. The recipe can be doubled or tripled for a crowd.

It's really that easy - heat, eat and enjoy!

Happy snacking,

May 9, 2011

Moving: Uprooting the plants

Despite the dearth of gardening activity at our home over the last few years, I am at my core, a gardener. And I have a slew of perennial plants around here, many of which will stay, but a few are going to make the trek to the new house in the next few weeks.

Among the take-alongs are my water lilies and Louisiana irises. Poor babies, the Louisiana irises have stayed a little too dry in their current home under a huge magnolia, but I suspect they will love being at the water's edge of the pond when I move them (as soon as they're through blooming.)

The new hanging baskets
I'm also taking some hydrangeas and shade plants, plus a peony or two to add to what's here. The rest of the plants will stay where they are unless/until we sell or rent the house and then I'll take one last trek through the beds to see if there's anything else I want to dig and take.

In the meantime, the porch was crying out for hanging baskets, so I took some time on Saturday to put together new baskets with plants I bought in Jackson the week before, and got them hung. They will be full and lush in a few weeks, I hope! Several containers will move into place this week.

Mr. Official is also determined to move the greenhouse. It needs new doors; well, it really needs a whole new front unit. It was a casualty of our sidewalk construction around the same huge magnolia tree a few years ago.

(For the record, in a contest of greenhouse versus skidster going full speed in reverse, the greenhouse will lose. Every time. Especially the second and third times.)

It will be nice to have the greenhouse when we move, but taking down and putting back up?  Not so much fun.  Hopefully we can get it down and then wait until fall to rebuild it.

Happy (trans)planting,

May 5, 2011

Time to lighten the load

The move-in date is upon us.  This week has been a frenzy of back-and-forth trips getting bathrooms, kitchen and closets set up and ready to move into.  The furniture gets moved tomorrow.   After that, I will have to look at the remaining stuff and make tough choices. I'll be honest, the urge to purge is upon me.
I have torn away my clutter blinders and I'm looking with clear eyes at all the S.T.U.F.F. we have accumulated since we moved to Tennessee almost 11 years ago. Added to the moving van load o'stuff we hauled here with us. It's embarrassing to consider how much stuff we have.  (At least we never broke over and permanently rented a storage unit.  But that's only because we let it pile up in attics and the shed.)

But enough is enough - it's not all coming with us.  The new shed is smaller.  The new walk-in attic is fanTABULOUS, but it is not big enough for all this stuff.  And even if it were, WHY would we take it all? My vow is we are going to move lightly (figuratively speaking of course.  Because all that pottery is heavy!)

I have two litmus tests I am administering to decide what stays and what goes:
1.  If it is not loved and/or used at least once a year, it's not going.
2.  If we haven't used it since we moved in here, it is absolutely, positively, not going.  

The superfluities can be sold, given away, recycled, tossed in the trash, burned...I don't care - but they cannot enter our new abode.

Of course, every rule has exceptions, and since there were two rules, we have two exceptions:
1.  My wedding dress, although I'm even debating that one...swimmer girl is not keen on its 1980s style; and
2. Mr. Official's baseball cards.  I just hope he doesn't rupture a disk hauling them down and up the stairs from one attic to the other.

Happy moving,

May 4, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Chicken Tetrazzini

Several years ago, a college professor and mentor invited a group of us to dinner at her house. She served a scrumptious baked pasta dish and later shared the recipe with me. She explained the original recipe was for a mushroom dish,  but she preferred chicken. I like both in mine!

It is a terrific dish to make for a crowd, as it is easily doubled, holds well, and can be prepared ahead of time and baked just before serving. It also reheats decently.

Kay's Chicken Mushroom Tetrazzini

1 package (12 ounces) fettucine noodles, cooked, drained and rinsed
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 - 3 cups milk
1/4 cup sherry (cooking sherry is acceptable, but it is very salty, so adjust your seasonings accordingly)
20 ounces sliced provolone cheese; tear or shred 12 ounces

Coat a 9x13 glass dish with cooking spray and place half the fettuccine noodles in the bottom. Sprinkle with half the chicken and set aside.

In large saute pan, melt butter, saute onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft. Add flour; stir well until bubbly. Slowly add milk, sherry and 12 ounces of shredded/torn cheese. Cook over medium-low heat until cheese melts (mixture will be gloppy.) Pour half the sauce over the chicken. Layer the remaining noodles, chicken and sauce. Arrange remaining cheese slices over top.

At this point, it can be refrigerated overnight or baked for immediate serving. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes; uncover and bake an additional ten minutes or until top is golden and bubbly. If baking from refrigerated state, add at least 5-10 minutes to the covered baking time.

Happy cooking!

May 3, 2011

Shark attack!

Don't panic - I'm not in Florida, I'm not swimming with sharks, nor am I under attack. But the dirt on my floors is at risk.

Yes, I'm mopping.

With a shark.

A purple shark, to be precise.

I am beginning to grasp just how much contiguous hard flooring I now have - the whole downstairs except for our bedroom is either hardwood or tile. The two full baths are huge, especially if you're looking at them from hands and knees, trying to hand mop them. As soon as I got the hall and upstairs bathrooms clean and ready to move, including an old-fashioned hands-and-knees mopping and baseboard cleaning, I went shark hunting. I love using steam to sanitize, so this concept was right up my alley.

So far, so good.  The true test will come when I get busy cooking in this new kitchen.  Spills happen, at least when I cook.  And when the dog drinks from her bowl.

Speaking of kitchens, today is move-the-kitchen day.  The car is loaded with pots and pans and bakeware and my trusty Kitchen Aid.  Of course, you might find me taking a break from moving and attacking the floors again. Or stopping to admire my shiny clean floors. (The novelty has not worn off yet, obviously.)

Happy cleaning,

May 2, 2011

The house: a reality check

As I move into full-bore moving mode today, I thought I would take a moment for a reality check:  dream house versus real house.  Below is my wish list, and how this house measures up:

1. A bigger kitchen. Not commercial-size - I don't want to run a marathon to fix dinner. But I really doubt I will get duped into another 9x18 space for kitchen and eating area. Fool me once, all that.

Got it.  Plus a second sink, a fabulous island, convection oven with warming drawer and beautiful black granite countertops.  Winning!

2. A walk-in pantry. I will miss my big pantry I have now, unless I find a way to have another one. (Note to self: forget the "mom cave" - just give me a big honkin' pantry, preferably with built-in cabinets, electrical outlets and maybe even a sink beneath a window, with countertops on either side.)

Not exactly.  (But it's big enough and the excessive abundance of kitchen storage makes up for it.)

3. Taller ceilings. I'm no giant, but even at my stature, eight-foot-ceilings feel a little claustrophobic, especially when you've lived in a house with soaring space above your head.

Got 'em.  Love, love, LOVE them.  Another winner.

4. Fireplaces. As in multiple - one outdoors, and at least two or three indoors. They are one of the things that make winter bearable.

Got one.  But there is room to add one outside (on the list of future projects.)  And if I really want one for our bedroom, there's always ventless...

5. Windows, windows, and more windows. Tall windows that let in lots of light. And that tilt in for cleaning.

Got 'em..  Another one for the W column.  Light streams in, but with the big wraparound porch, it's not direct sunlight beating in.  And the sunroom that adjoins the den makes a fantastic spot to curl up in the mornings.

6. Closets, closets, and more closets. B-I-G closets. There ought to be a law that all closets must be large enough to do what they're designed to do (plus some wiggle room), whether they are for linens or coats or clothes.

Got 'em.  This place has way more closet space than we have had in the past but I'm sure we'll find something to put in all those nooks and crannies.

7. A central vacuum. Had one, loved it, would love one again.

Nope.  But it's always possible to add one.  Right, sweetheart?  Sweetheart????

8. A garbage disposal. (Or, put another way - no septic system.) It's the little things that mean a lot. You don't miss 'em until you don't have them any more.

Yes and no.  Yes, we have a disposal.  But we're still on septic. We'll see how that works.

9. A walk-in attic. One that you can actually stand up and WALK around in. Every time I pull down the attic stairs, I get a mental image of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and flinch at the though of the staircase smacking me in the face. It can't, but it just feels like it might. And hauling my Christmas decorations up and down attic stairs and stooping over at the waist to tuck them away is JUST NO FUN.

Got it.  (Now let's see if we can keep it organized :-)

10. A covered or screened-in porch. With a niche for a TV (above that outdoor fireplace) and an adjacent hot tub, preferably with a view of a pond, stream or other burbling natural water feature, close enough to hear and far enough away to not pose a flooding threat.

Big deck, but not covered. No hot tub yet, but those are definitely high possibility projects for the future.  And in the meantime, there's that humongous wraparound porch - perfect for sitting and rocking.

I'd have to say the reality is pretty close to the wish list.  Three of the not-quites are potential future additions (if/when we feel like tackling them.)  And the rest of my wishes were met in some form or fashion. It's hard okay, impossible to complain, especially when I also got the bonus gifts of a fantastic wraparound porch with a view of a  huge pond and farm life all around me every time I walk outside.  (All the fun of living on a farm and none of the expense or mess.)

The search for the perfect house was frustrating and discouraging at times.  But I'm really glad I had a list of high-priority items that I was seeking, and stuck to my guns.  May all YOUR wishes come true, too.

Happy wishing,