A Side Project

I don’t know about you, but when taking on a larger project, a whole lot of smaller ones seem to pop-up. Right before Heather and Ashley arrived, I decided one of the projects I needed to tackle was the basement entry way.

Make sense, right? I mean, who doesn’t want a nice cleaned up staircase to greet them when they walk down the stairs to drop off things in the basement?

OK, fine. What if I told you a few months ago a not so clever mama dropped a quart of paint all over the wall, and it was just about time to clean it up?

The Accident

Funny story about that paint spill. It happened minutes—minutes—after I dealt with another paint disaster, that being the baby dumping out half a quart can on herself and the floor. I came down from my bedroom, started getting the coffe brewing and heard a funny noise, which was the baby squidging around in all the lovely green latex paint I left on the floor in a coffee can the night before, feeling too lazy to take it down to the basement as I should’ve after finishing up the sideboard. So I grabbed her, got her bathed, rinsed out the clothes, mopped up the floor (possibly not quite in that order), grabbed one can in each hand, turned around and lost my grip on the can in my right, which flew gracefully and in slow motion out of my hand, bouncing at a delightful angle off the floor, flipping its lid and letting the Duck Egg Blue flow like precious turquoise milk through the air to splatter artfully on the steps and wall.

I hadn’t yet had one sip of coffee.

So it was time to take care of a bit of clean up in aisle one, and I had just the project in mind. If you remember this image from the pantry…

Junk Drawer Stuff

… it’s quite a crazy collection of all our pens and pencils and other various junk that needs a home for four months before I finally decide it’s OK to throw it all out. The paint spill was on the right side of the stairs…

Still There

… and on the left were two copper baskets I used to store my onions and garlic. Seems like a clever idea, right? But in the end the top of the basement stairs were too warm and kept rotting/sprouting everything I stored there, so they needed to be moved. Where sould one store onions and garlic? I know they can’t be stored with potatoes (You know that right? They both release gases that soften and sprout the other.) but I like to buy onions in bulk and need a better storage solution. You can also see how we recycle here. No, not in those lovely wall containers I made the husband install, but rather on the steps, which eventually starts blocking the path and makes a lovely sounds when you trip on them on your way to grab some paper towels.

Not Working

Sigh…

At any rate, I thought the right side would be wonderful for another chalkboard to keep track of my shopping lists. So I took 20 minutes (2 sessions, 10 minutes each) to paint it and get it ready and working!

Chalkboard

And on the other side I added one Grundtal bar to contain the pencil/pen mess, but still have it in an accessible spot.

Pencil Cups

I need another longer bar as well as a few S rings. Thought I had kept them after the last move, but if I did, I’ve placed them in some magical location that no person on this earth could find. It’s also where the mates to all my single socks go between the wash and the dry cycle. Also, I believe, my sanity.

Detail

We were all hoping to make it out to IKEA last week (or was it the week before that?), but all our plans were derailed by the lovely blizzard that blew on through and took our power.

And my sanity.

I also began cleaning the third floor office, the basement, and the garage. No, I’m not kidding. No, not any single one of those had any bearing what-so-ever on the pantry project. No, I did not really think it through. See above sanity references.

Making Progress on the Pantry

Otherwise entitled :: It Might Get Worse Before It Gets Better…

OK, the pantry has been done for a few weeks now, but hey! Let’s pretend this is in real-time, shall we?

Some of my favorite people in the whole world came to visit for two quick days in January to help me out. It was such a short visit that I felt bad in possibly wasting our time cleaning out the pantry when we could be doing much more interesting things like watching Downton Abbey while sitting on the couch, but I gotta tell you, Ms. Heather is an organizing machine. Do you have a friend like that in your life, someone who thinks organizing is fun? If not, I suggest you find yourself one, because they are so much more than awesome!!

A few weeks (possibly months, but who is counting) I sent Heather a few images of the mess in the pantry and asked her for some advice. Here’s what she wrote back in ten minutes or less ::

Quick fix that will hopefully give you a “there’s hope” moment and tide you over till we can do more.
 
Read this suggestion and before doing anything consider two things:
 
1. Will the items in their new home be too high up? Will it make retrieving them a pain in the ass. I think you will be okay because you’re tall, but just in case…
2. Is there enough room (left to right) on the suggested shelf for all items to fit and not be squished so that it looks bad and is not actually practical. If this is the case let me know. I have a back up plan.
 
Suggestion:
 
1. Clear off the top shelf on the left side of the pantry where you have pencils and paper towels and cook books and baskets. 
2. Anything that has a cord (mixer, panini press, ice cream maker, coffee pot, slow cooker, cuisinart) should be lined up on this shelf left to right. Things that you use more often should be on the left closer to the door. And things that you use less should be further down. I’m not sure if you have chafing dishes, but if you do leave them out for now. Those are things that should go high high up. 
3. All the stuff that you took off from that shelf shove into the now empty spaces. 🙂 It’s a process. Sometimes you have to “shove” and “stick” stuff in temporary homes.
 
Take a pic if you do this and let me know what you think!
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So, ask me now, did I do anything she suggested? No. Not one doggone thing. The suggestions were brilliant, and the questions she asked totally helped frame some of the problems I was having, but somehow I couldn’t get started. I waited until she got here and this is what she did ::

Enter the Madness

Make a Plan

Who knew thinking up a plan could be so adorable and stylish? Maybe I should get out of my yoga pants and throw on some make-up when it’s time to clean up…

But seriously, where I was paralyzed with inactivity and feeling overwhelmed with all the decisions that would have to be made, she dove right in. We started moving things around, putting them in “temporary” locations, so we could start with a “fresh slate”.

Jump On In

And it’s here that I’ll mention two things : One, it’s embarrassing to have your dearly beloveds come to your house and dig you out of the messes you’ve gotten yourself into… while Heather worked on the pantry, Ashley worked in the playroom; and two, they were the very epitome of grace while doing it, and managed to put me and my neurosis at ease and make the process as fun as it could be. They are good peeps, those two.

Make a Bigger Mess

So here’s the thing; with this type of project, as with most on this scale, it all gets worse before it gets better. It reminds me of the mess the movers made a few years go when we first moved up to the Boston area. If the gals weren’t here, I would’ve probably stopped right here and started to cry. Then waited a month of two to get started again.

Any Shelter In a Storm

I wasn’t the only one feeling a titch overwhelmed. Some of the youngin’s felt they need protective gear to get through!

Wear Protective Gear

Try Not To Look

See Past It

Seriously, this is the moment that I realized how important it was to have someone helping me through the process that isn’t emotionally attached to the stuff. Heather is able to see the end goal; she envisioned where things were going to go and what needed to be moved around and in what order. I saw growing piles of unfulfilled dreams, an encapsulation of all the things I wanted to do but haven’t made time for. Piles and piles and piles of teeny tiny little failures. It’s no wonder I couldn’t jump in and organize it on my own.

Hallways Are Awesome

Heather doesn’t see the unmade gourmet meals I had planned to create to nourish my family. She doesn’t see unbaked cookies, an unconstructed lasagna, loaves of bread that were never kneaded into life, a fear of being without, of not having enough. She sees the clutter for what it is, and she has the personal distance from my symbolic mental contortions that it’s much easier for her to stay focused.

WHITE SPACE

And focus she did, with a laser-like clarity. Looky at this image above… actual WHITE SPACE! It was such an amazing thing to see only a few hours into this task. One shelf almost entirely organized, and glorious, beautiful, fabulous white space, space that has nothing but air and clarity and fulfillment and promise.

I didn’t think that organizing the pantry would be quite so cathartic, but I will tell you, it was one hell of a therapy session! And it only cost me dinner!!

The Pantry Project :: Truth Telling Time

A few weeks, erm, uh, months ago, I  wrote to one of my friends, Heather, to ask beg for help with a project that needed some attention :: My pantry. I am lucky enough to have a friend who loves to organize, even though I thought such a person only lived in rainbow-land with the unicorns.

These are the pictures I sent her, which I will present to you, without comment.

Pantry Right

Pantry Left

Under the Window

Under Left Side Shelves

Second Detail

Junk Drawer Stuff

Glass Jars

Far Left of Shelves

Details Of Shelves

Back Of Door

That’s my pantry in all its glorious, hideous, excess of mess. She took pity on me, and this week I’m going to tackle this disaster (which has only gotten worse since I wrote the email, I can no longer see the floor) with her help. I’m gathering up all my resources and motivation now because she’s coming at the end of the week for a visit, and I want to get the pantry looking as close to those photos as I can, so I have some work to do. I am so thankful that I will be able to corral this into something that works better and I’m not embarrassed to be seen in. This is my project for the week; I hope you’ll stick around and chide me when I fall behind and offer your brilliant ideas and laugh when I spill lentils all over the floor.

Please, tell me I’m not the only one with a pantry like this?

The Playroom Project

Raise your hand if your house is dustless, clutter-free, organized to a T, and scrubbed ’til it shines… anyone? any single one of you? If you have your hand raised and are waving it madly, you might want to look away from this post and come back in a few days.

I do not have a spotless, dustless, toy-and-clutter-free home. But I surely appreciate all those things and desperately try to wrangle our lives in a close approximation of all those untenable goals in a life filled with small children and big dreams. So I take small steps in between sips of coffee and tip-toe past the ever-present piles of laundry to tackle a few minutes here and there of larger projects that normally overwhelm me. I’m starting to learn how to break down those looming tasks into smaller steps that help me feel like I’m making progress. It’s not my forte, but we all need something to work on, yes?

In the parlance of our time, folks, I’m about to “keep it real.” Here is the state of the kids’ playroom when I realized it was way past time for an intervention.

Play Room 1

Play Room 2

Play Room 3

Play Room 4

Play Room 6

Play Room 5

Play Room 7

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed about my kids and their clutter in particular. When they are unable to keep things cleaned up by themselves in ten minutes or less, there is a steady and rapid slide into chaos. Everyone is unhappy. Two years ago I became so frustrated with the level of mess, that I attacked the toy piles (and piles and piles…) with a handful of trash bags. I was worried about the revolution I would face come the morning when sleepy eyes looked around and saw the Shock and Awe assault levied on their bits and bobs and plastic parts… But here’s the rub. Not only did they not notice, they were better able to focus on what they were playing with and suffered fewer distractions. It was as if a tiny cloud from heaven descended upon us and restored peace and sanity. They never mentioned the toys, I never missed them, and no one every noticed (or said anything if they did) that a few of their gifts had gone missing. I certainly appreciated a break from trying to keep all the tiny little toys together in their sets, the kids found awesome little substitues when needed, everyone was happy.

We have repeated this scenario enough times that I know it wasn’t just a fluke. I also know that the slash and burn is long past due, and it’s one of the projects I’ve been slowly chipping away at for the past three weeks. It’s almost done. I can’t wait. Can. Not. Wait.

And this post is the last little bit of incentive I’m offering up to get me past this last little push I’ll need to get. it. done. Another mark off my to-do list.

I’ve Been Painting

Painting Pretty

But it hasn’t been going well.

Play Well Together

I don’t often get my color choices wrong, but when I do, ugh, it takes a while to figure out and fix. There was too much yellow in that first green. Off to the store to try a few more, but this time in sample size instead of a gallon.

I had some pictures of how it looked on the wall, all those ugly big green splotches, and it all made me sad. I like to paint, I seem to be addicted to color, and I don’t like it when the colors aren’t working. But when I started to crop them down to see if I coud get better color correction and work out some white balance issues, they started looking a little bit like pieces of abstract art.

Third Try Frame

I like these much better.

First Third Try

Too bad they’ll all be gone soon.

Abstract 1

Or maybe, not so bad.

Abstract 3

I feel like some sort of project might be in line with these images… we’ll have to see.

Abstract 4

Yes, in fact, this is yet another disaster.

Pick a Peck of Pickles

Four weeks ago, I ran into the farmer’s market and grabbed a whole lot of pickling cucumbers. I had a fresh cukes, some dill, garlic, salt, and most importantly, a gorgeous crock.

Crock

A few years ago I tried a recipe for crock pickles that used cider vinegar. After carefully tending to them for a five or six weeks, we were all giddy with anticipation… and sorely disappointed. They were terrible. The cider vinegar seemed all wrong, harsh, even bitter. So I was a teeny bit trepidatious when setting up my lacto ferment with the baby cukes this time around.

Garlic

Have you heard of half sour pickles? You might know them as barrel dills or deli style pickles. They aren’t actually “pickled” per se, but are fermented. The cukes, other flavoring ingredients (peppercorns, garlic, and dill head), and grape leaves (the tannins help retain crispness) are placed in a water tight container, covered with a salt solution which prevents bacterial growth that will lead to spoilage, and allowed to ferment with the naturally occurring lactobaccili, which turns the vegetable flesh into a tangy, slightly salty treat. It is the same method used to produce sauerkraut.

Pickles Under Glass

Here you can see the cukes are contained under a glass pie plate and a glass jar filled with the brine solution. You can use food-grade plastics, but glass is non-reactive and  leaves me with no worries that anything may be leaching into my brine. Of course, you have to be super careful with glass; if it should break into your crock, well, you’ll have to throw the entire batch out.

Pickles All Wrapped Up

I check on them almost daily, or at least every three or four days. There is some surface mold to deal with, but otherwise they are pretty low maintenance. You just have to make sure the cucumbers stay under the brine (air is the enemy of lacto ferments!). Finally, after four or five weeks, mine are ready. This week, I have to place them in clean jars with new brine, give a bunch away to neighbors, and place what’s left in the fridge.

I might add that these pickles, along with a nice cold beer, make an excellent dinner! For me anyway… the kids get cereal… and milk.

Necessity, Inventions, and Revisions

Revise Medicine Bottle LabelGuess what? We now have four kiddos (and a mama) down with fevers. We revised our little medicine bottle label craft.

One kid is old enough for chewable tablets, so she doesn’t get her own set of bottles… everyone else does. I’m still using the chalkboard labels, but I added names, dosage info, hours between doses and the name of the medication with color coded permanent paint markers. The time of the last dosage is marked extra large with chalk. It isn’t perfect, but it’s working for now.

eeeeeee

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Linking to the fabulous sites ::

http://todayscreativeblog.net/crafting-projects/
http://www.tipjunkie.com/homemade-projects-6-19/ 

Departures and Returns

These days, I can not seem to get my hands out of the mud. The spaces between my fingers and nails are constantly grubby and I think I’ve now managed to place an old toothbrush near every sink in our house in hopes that I might somehow get ahead of the dirt. I can’t really say that it’s helped, but it does give me hope, and who can’t use a little bit more of that in their life?

This Is Not A Pear

Starting a few weeks back, I’ve dedicated one night a week to an open studio at the local art center. It has been years since I’ve pushed around clay, but it’s been a welcome return.

Structures

Way back in the day, waaaaay back—actually, it hurts to realize how long ago it was when really it only feels like yesterday—I finished the work required to receive a BFA in Art. I’m not sure that I was ever meant to be a studio artist… actually, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am not. The program I completed was a commitment that required a singularly-focused and intense dedication that was beyond my interests, possibly my abilities. I did not eat, sleep, and breathe creation as did some of my talented colleagues. In fact, I was quite in awe and a touch envious of their drive. I loved the thinking, and the exposure to new ideas, the production methods, the community itself, but I had so many other interests that I wanted to pursue in those limited years between the freedom of adolescence and the responsibilities of adulthood. Early on It was clear I was on a different path than the one I was supposed to be pursuing, one that would keep me in my studio until the wee hours pulling and pushing and making and exploring, one that would introduce me to the pressures of producing for gallery shows and commissions and grants.

There have been times in my life when I look back to the years I spent in the art school and think they were wasted, that my energies would have been better matched in another program, possibly in the design school where I eventually worked for my Masters and then taught for a few years. Those are the bad days, and thankfully, those thoughts return less frequently as time progresses. My life took a departure from the original internal script I repeatedly so religiously, the script that led me to a certain number of decisions, which created experiences that helped to redefine the story and shape the person I am now. Isn’t it true for all of us, that the life we lead now is quite different somehow—richer, more subtle, maybe more meaningful, possibly even painful—than the life we originally imagined?

Textures and Chasms

One of my professors patiently explained to us once that we will never again have the unrestricted time and unfettered access to materials and talent than we did while we were in college. Although I’ve always remembered his words, it has taken me years to understand exactly how true they really were. Of course it’s not as if that time didn’t carry its own set of pressures, and the resources we had then are not ones that are readily accessible now. But I’m happy to discover, even though the time and energy is different, there is a focus I have now that wasn’t present back when the world was seemingly wide open and limitless. Maybe that’s part of what it means to be a grown-up; recognizing the ideas and thoughts as the opportunities and distractions they are, and limiting yourself, by the choices you make, in order to progress.

Repetition of Form

This post as I originally wrote in my head was supposed to be about how fun it was to get back in the studio and get my hands dirty. But once again, I found a metaphor in the work and words that I wasn’t aware of until I began writing and it ran away with my attention. Another step away from the plan as I envisioned, only to come back to the task at hand with fresh insight and a different energy. Just as the studio called to me after all those years, as I’ve worked through the wee sma’s with the drive I used to miss…  I’ve circled back.

Another Step

It’s funny, isn’t it, that what we consider a departure is also a return.