Thursday, April 25, 2019

Never an end to home organizing

chmusings:pantry organization
For the third time in as many years, I set out to organize my pantry.

Just a few weeks ago, I installed over-the-door shelves, which gave me a cursory chance to do some rearranging.

But the real necessity for this chore took root months ago, when my husband received a Keurig coffee maker for Christmas. What a wonderful gift; it provides fresh-brewed coffee in a fraction of the time of the traditional method. To make room for it, considering the ease of use for my handicapped husband, I gave it a special, accessible place on the kitchen counter.

We used it every morning without missing Mr. Coffee even a little bit.

I was almost gleeful at the speed for which I could open my eyes, stumble into the kitchen, and with so little effort, take my first sip of my energy elixir.

I began to notice though, that this was not just about a coffee machine. It introduced myriad accouterments, all necessary items. My husband uses K-cups for convenience and ease of use. Because I am more prone to conservation than convenience, I use reusable cups with paper filters. I keep a compostable bag on the counter for coffee grounds. We also have different coffee tastes. I use half & half and sugar; he likes Coffeemate. So I keep his coffee cups, my coffee in a canister, a sugar bowl, jar of spoons, and a spoon rest just to keep things tidy, close at hand.

All of this is a real mess on the counter. My pretty quilted table runner is camouflaged under all the coffee junk.

This has become a problem, so, I decided the cabinet above the coffee maker would be a perfect place to store all that coffee ‘stuff.’ Trouble is it was my spice cabinet. I decided the best solution was to move my spices into the pantry, so one morning I woke up at 5 a.m., made a cup of coffee and got right to it.

For as long as I can remember, I kept my spices on two round, Rubbermaid lazy-susans. They were not ideal, given the large number of spices I have, but at least I could find them. They were in alphabetical order, a practice I insisted on years ago when my kids were small, probably about the time they were learning their A,B,C’s.

When I got ready to make the switch, which included cleaning out the pantry as well, I move the spices onto a shelf inside the pantry. I soon realized those turntables had to go. Even after I got them all cleaned, they didn’t turn very well. They never really did. I decided it was time for something else. I scoured the Internet until I found something that might just work: a plastic, expandable, three-tier spice holder. I figured I didn’t have that many spices. Wrong!

When I received my new spice organizer in just a couple days--thanks Amazon--I realized I had more spices than I thought. I placed all the little jars and bottles onto what reminded me of the risers we stood on in Freshman Girl’s Chorus some fifty years ago. I hope this solution lasts longer than I did in chorus. I only made it one year because I really can’t sing.

chmusings: spices alphabetized
I got all my spices in order when I realized some of the small jars got lost in the shuffle. So I rearranged again, putting all the small jars in front and the others behind.

I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I can find whatever I’m looking for. And, if I should happen to buy more spices, although I doubt that is even possible, I can always readjust by expanding the thing. This is probably the best solution possible, since they really take up very little room. The best part is not only is the pantry organized, but I have a place for all the coffee stuff.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Remodel the master bath; best thing ever

One of the best things I’ve ever done is remodel the master bath.

Located just steps from the bed, my bathroom was functional; it was adequate. But after living in this house for a dozen years or so, I decided it was time to satisfy my long held desire to install a new jetted bathtub. I agonized over this decision. I knew it would be expensive. And I had no idea if or how it could be done. I pondered this, literally for years.

The main bathroom in the house has a bathtub, but it is far from the luxurious soaking tub of my dreams. Instead, it is a standard metal tub, probably installed when the house was built, somewhere in the mid 80’s. I tried to enjoy a leisurely soak in it, but this tub wasn’t comfortable; there was no place to put a candle or a calming glass of wine. It just wasn’t what I wanted. I was destined to merely take a quick shower.

Hours went into thinking about this, as I tried to look at all the possibilities. I’m sure I annoyed all my friends and family members as I solicited opinions and enlisted their aid as I brainstormed. They were kind though, and let me talk through all my thoughts.

I wondered about the possibility of rearranging the floor plan in the tiny master bathroom. I considered upgrading the tub in the main bathroom. Finally, I decided the best plan was to upgrade the master. It would require removing a portion if not all of a second closet in the bedroom. Between taking out the shower and knocking out the wall of the closet, there should be enough room for a new tub.

That was about a year ago. The project is now completed, but it ended up being a three-stage process. The first phase included just the bathtub and acrylic walls surrounding it. This left a real mess in the rest of the room. Thus, the second phase. I hired someone to handle that portion, which included replacing the sink and fixtures, and new plumbing. I kept the vanity, because it was roomy. I did installed new drawer pulls to make it look like new. The third phase was recently completed—to turn what is left of the bedroom closet into built in shelves.

I love the ability to either start the day with a quick shower or end the day with a comforting soak. There is something pretty special about a nice, hot bath in the middle of the day too. I love the choice of either a hot bubble bath or a massage of aching muscles. Soaking in Epsom salts is therapeutic. And who doesn’t enjoy the decadence of aromatherapy? I consider the bathtub to be a quiet respite that ranks right up there with a walk in the woods or working on a quilt. At this phase in my existence, life is all about enjoying the simple pleasures.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

It was a good life

Even now, almost a month after I said my final goodbye to this brave and wonderful cat, it is hard to look at her picture without a tug of emotion pulling at my heart.

I get a little choked up just thinking about her and the life she led. If she was human, we would say she was "special needs." She had much to overcome in her life, not the least of which was her name, Junior. I also called her Bug or Boo, which was much more fitting.

She was one of five kittens born on a hot summer day on the front porch on the 11th of July 2007. As near as I can recall, she wasn't the last born, but was third in succession. The litter turned out to be all female, a fact I didn't know when I named them all after my favorite NASCAR drivers. The runt of the litter, Rusty, lived only 11 days. And then there were four.

I was in love with them all and couldn't conceive of the notion of giving any of them away, though that had been the plan. We also had her mother, Timi, who made me so very proud that day.

I knew Junior was different right after her birth. She had a broken right front paw. I learned that sometimes kittens are born with a birth-related injury which can be overcome with proper care. So, when she was a mere kitten, I wrapped her foot, using a tiny splint to keep it straight. I soon learned that it wasn't just crooked, that her paw was indeed malformed. She had only two toes on that foot. It didn't seem to bother her though. She got around as well as her litter mates. She walked with a strange gait on her three good legs. She could run, jump, and do anything they did. In fact, she was a follower in those early years. Her sisters didn't have much to do with her, but she followed them anyway. She obviously wanted to be just like them. It was actually a beautiful thing to watch.

She was the last to be weaned. She found great comfort in being by her mother, but after the others were weaned, her mother decided she had had enough. Timi was a good mother, despite the fact that she wasn’t much more than a kitten herself. She was like the teenage girl who got pregnant on the first date. Finally, I had to step in to separate Boo from her mother who was growing very impatient with her. That relationship remained strained throughout Boo’s life. Timi was an inside/outside cat who had better things to do than play with her kids. That was my job. And, it was one I relished. I spent the first six months of their lives on my belly, on the floor. I grew to love these girls instantly.

When I took the kittens and their mom to the vet to be spayed, I learned that Boo’s entire right side was malformed. When I picked them all up after the surgery, the vet gave me Boo and told me, "This one has some parts missing."

And so it went with our little Boo. She was smaller than the others. She was often sickly, with respiratory difficulties. She often got a runny nose and gunk in her eyes, and labored breathing, like she had a bad cold. Sometimes, I would wrap her in a towel with a hot water bottle so she could sleep through the night. She developed a slight tremor, almost like a Parkinson’s patient, but she always soldiered on.

Sister Buddies - Ryan and Junior
Her sisters tended to pick on her at first, but not for long. Kenni and Kasey had little to do with her. Both are twice her size. In fact she and Kasey were like oil and water. Junior would often like to cuddle with one of her sisters. Only Ryan, the first born allowed it. The others growled and hissed at her. It didn’t sway her though. She would often walk right up to them sleeping on my bed, which they claimed for their own, and plop right on top of them. Boo was fierce, the toughest of the bunch. It got to the point that if anyone was sitting on my lap, even her mother, Junior would make them leave. She would growl and hiss until she got her way. Finally, whoever it was would leave while she settled in all proud of herself. She was definitely a scrapper. Only Ryan, admittedly my favorite of the bunch, would let Boo cuddle with her. Ryan seemed to sense when Boo needed a friend, and she was mostly always there. Boo pushed even Ryan’s limits sometimes.
Junior loved sitting in a basket

Junior wasn't necessarily a cuddly cat for most of her life. She would perch upon John's lap and he would pet her, but that all changed within the last few years. I'm not sure when, but she began to seek me out. I didn't just pet her like he did; I would pick her up and snuggle her close to me. She seemed to need that. She loved being held close, melting her body next to mine and purring as loud as any cat I've ever heard. She began following me around from room to room. She was always with me. She and Ryan became my two favorites. They were both snugly and cuddly, while the other two were more standoffish.

The last few months, Boo developed some neurological issues, perhaps from a stroke or seizure. One day, she was near her water dish, crying. It was a sound unlike anything I had ever heard her make before. Then she became quiet and lay on the floor. She didn’t move a muscle; she didn’t even move her eyes. I thought she was dead. For several long minutes, she just lay there. Then, she got up like nothing was wrong and was her old self again. Then she began to develop severe respiratory issues. I took her to the vet on a Thursday in February. She got three shots, an anti-biotic, a steroid, and a vitamin shot. She wasn’t eating and she had sores on her tongue. That Saturday, I observed that she hadn’t eaten anything all day. She was weak, was losing weight, which she could ill-afford and just lay on a rug in the kitchen. I tried some canned pumpkin and warm milk, but she wouldn’t eat any of it. Then I gave her some liver sausage. She gobbled it up, like nothing was wrong. The next morning, she was feeling better. When I got up she came to the hallway to greet me. She appeared fine, like her old self. I fed the girls and Boo ate as she always had. She was her old self again. I called her my miracle cat. That lasted for a couple of weeks, but then her health began to deteriorate again. I made the decision to do the humane thing, so I took her to the vet for a last ride. I put her into a wooden picnic basket with a baby blanket that my late Aunt had crocheted for my daughter, about 40 years ago. And, I said my last goodbye.

I will never forget my Boo. It was a joy and my distinct pleasure to know her. There will never be another cat like her.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Fall doesn’t have to be the end of summer

Every year I try to bring a little summer into the house. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. But it is always fun to try.

This year I brought in a whole pot of Marigolds. My indoor thumb is green, but my outdoor thumb is not. So, these flowers didn’t do all that much this summer, but they did perk up toward the end when it finally rained a bit. So, rather than write them off, I decided to try to keep them alive.

At the very least, even if they don’t make it until spring, now only 121 days from this writing, I can always save the seeds from the spent flowers to plant outside. I also have Zinnias and Geraniums and Petunias.
It is always nice to add a little color into my sun porch to add to my houseplants. I rather like the look.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Happiness is a pop of color

CHMusings: kitchenThe older I get the more I realize how much I like color: especially bright colors, but also softly muted ones, pastels, and all their variations.

I love colors. When I think back, as a kid, I was always enamored with a brand new box of crayons or my favorite, now vintage, Venus Paradise colored pencils. I wonder what ever happened to those. Today, I’m keenly aware that colors really do seem to make me happy. Perhaps they always did.

When I decided to give my drab kitchen a face lift, I thought about all the colors now available.

The first place I looked for inspiration was at the huge variety of colorful Kitchen Aid mixers. I don’t happen to have one, but their color range now is simply amazing. Not only did I look at appliance colors, but I also Googled kitchen remodels and looked on Pinterest. One particular color caught my eye; turquoise. The first time I saw a turquoise kitchen was on the TV Show “Mistresses,” an ABC production a few years ago, starring Alyssa Milano. It was canceled in 2016 after a run of several years. The trendy turquoise kitchen belonged to the show’s character April, played by Rochelle Aytes. It was so striking that I had remembered it. So when I was thinking of colors for my own kitchen that was in the back of my mind.

CHMusings: teapot
I decided to add a few turquoise things to accessorize my dull kitchen. It only took a few things to make me realize, I really do love this color. There are lots of different variations to it, which ranges from a little more blue to a little more green. I like them all, no matter the shade. When I look at the color on my new teapot, for example, it is almost like a visionary mouth-watering sensation.

For many years, our Ozarks home was pretty much colorless in my view. In fact, every room in our house was beige. A couple of the rooms had beige patterned wallpaper, but most of the walls had no color; they were that standard slap-a-coat-of-paint-on-the-drywall color. I suppose it was off-white, but might as well have been beige. Floors were carpeted in beige. Even the appliances were “biscuit,” another word for beige.

My penchant for color has been mentioned in previous blog posts, such as this one where I detailed the remodeling of our sun porch. It was the first introduction to turquoise into our house. There are now turquoise touches throughout. We painted over the pale pink that had been on the walls on the porch. Now, the color scheme is turquoise and hot pink. It is rather whimsical with a pink flamingo theme.

CHMusings: sunshine bedroom
I also painted the bedroom a bright, sunshiny yellow. It is like waking up inside a smiley face. What a great way to start the day. This room made me realize I no longer have one favorite color. I love them all. The accent color is turquoise, designed around one of my favorite quilt projects that highlighted the dual color scheme.
CHMusings: yellow/turquoise quilt

Color matters because I  quilt

I credit my love of color today to my being a quilter. I think the selection and use of different fabric has sharpened my appreciation of colors and how they work together. My favorite quilts remain monochromatic, but I’m also enjoying the experimentation of mixing colors together. This appreciation reminds me of the way my camera’s view finder honed my visual perspective. I find color, particularly bright colors, to be uplifting.

I can’t think about the colors of my home without giving some thought to my quilting projects. For me the, “which came first,” question, relates to decorating the room or making the quilt. I suppose that just like the chicken and the egg, the two go hand-in-hand. Each room is decorated with color and at least one quilt.

CHMusings: turquoise table runner
So since quilts don’t seem to work in the kitchen, I settled for a table runner. I recently completed the one pictured here, which brightens up the room and adds a splash of color where it is needed most.

This project had a dual purpose. It is the first project I have made in a very long time. It marks a return to my beloved hobby.

For more information on making this quilt, check my my quilting blog, for details on this project.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Housework is hazardous; not doing it again

closet pic
All clean, lots of room now
In the midst of cleaning out my closet, I smelled a funny smell. I wasn’t sure what it was. I know that at times, one or more of my cats sneaks into the closet at night. They know how to open the wooden bi-fold doors. In fact, they are pretty darned good at it. I wondered if perhaps they had forsaken their litter box. But thankfully, I knew this was not a cat-related smell. With six cats: four inside, one inside-outside, and one outside, I know ‘that’ smell. This wasn’t it.

I decided to clean out my closet because I have just plain run out of room. I keep seeing signs that now is the time. I’ve taken notice of various emails from well-meaning organizers and self-help gurus. I’ve seen ads on Facebook about cleaning up and cleaning out. And it dawned on me that I washed my clothes last week but have kept running into the laundry room for clean clothes. I just never put them away. There was no good place to put them due to the frustration of reaching for a blouse hanging in the closet only to take it out and find it needs to be ironed because it was crammed in so tightly with everything else.

Then, a friend of mine decided to clean out her closet. She had been sick and lost some weight. She is no longer my size, but she used to be. So, when she offered to give me some of her clothes, I was happy. I am not a clothes hound and rarely buy anything new, so this would be great. When I got home though, I wondered where I would put them.

All signs pointed to the need to go through my clothes and get rid of the things I no longer wore. I still had clothes dating back 20 years when I worked for a living. I was a journalist and had to have a decent wardrobe. I had always reasoned that they were just too good to throw out.

As I started going through my closet, I tried to think of the coming winter and what would keep me warm on those cold, winter evenings. I thought about the few things that I’d bought in the last several years. Those were all keepers. Then I looked through the rest. I tried to not think about the memories or the circumstances of when I bought them or who may have given them to me. The pile on the floor continued to grow. The closet still wasn’t very roomy, so I did it again, with a little less regard for the past. I was thinking only of the present and perhaps the future.

Another thing I did was dump those wire coat hangers. Oh, I’ll keep them in the garage because they often come in handy for things other than holding clothes, but they no longer have a home in my closet. This is a real plus because I’ve always thought them to be completely annoying as they bent into the oddest configurations and seemingly wound themselves around one another into a tangled metal sculpture. Who needs that?

All the while I was doing this, I this odd smell persisted. I poked my nose into the depths and it seemed stronger in the corners. But I could see nothing. Then I looked up. There was a pillow form I was saving for a project sitting next to the light bulb. It was smoking! I grabbed it and ran it under the faucet.

I almost made fast work of cleaning out the closet, by burning it down. Thank goodness I caught it in time. I know I’m not in the mood to evacuate a disabled husband, four inside and one inside-outside cats, my computer, and whatever important papers I might grab.

So much for cleaning house. It is dangerous. I’m not doing it!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Exploding egg whites—who knew?

I certainly never knew an egg could explode in my frying pan!

But that was just what happened to me this morning. I’ve cooked eggs for breakfast for years and never had such an experience. I’ve had eggs bubble up and pop and sputter in the pan, but this was different. It was positively explosive, even audibly. 

I like my eggs over-easy, but sometimes that causes the yolks to break. A broken yolk ruins my day, so I’ve begun covering the pan to allow the moisture of the egg to condense and essentially cook the yolk. Done right, the result is much like an over-easy egg, but guarantees the yolk remains in-tact. 

In this morning’s incident, just as soon as I picked up the lid, one of the eggs blew up, splattering onto the lid, spraying my upper arm, and on as well as around the stove. Oh, and the yolk was broken on one of the two eggs. The other was undaunted.

While I’m not accustomed to taking photos of dirty dishes, the picture at left, shows the remnants of my egg explosion. Some splattered in the pan, cooked by residual heat after I turned off the burner. There were portions of egg white on the counter and splattered onto the frying pan lid. The only thing not pictured was my arm where the bulk of the egg landed like shrapnel. I wiped it away quickly so I wouldn’t be burned.

What the heck happened?

My eggs were seemingly fresh, just purchased from a store that sells eggs from free-range chickens raised by local farmers.

One of the first things I did was to Google exploding eggs. Most problems with exploding eggs are associated with hard-boiled eggs in the microwave without puncturing the yolk to let the steam escape. That is a very different problem, since egg yolks condense when heated while egg whites expand. From what I can glean, this isn’t as unique as I thought. Simply, fresh eggs contain more moisture. The longer they sit, as do store-bought eggs, the more moisture is absorbed. I plan to exercise caution with my next breakfast adventure, including turning down the heat.

By the way, despite the broken yoke and somewhat unkempt egg white, breakfast was delicious.