Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Sewing Corner {Before}

Sorry for the phone-quality pictures; I was too lazy to run downstairs and grab the camera.

The sewing bug is biting hard, but after making our Christmas stockings I mentally committed myself to getting my sewing corner cleaned up, a little better set up, and organized before I started any more sewing projects. Since I don't have anything that I need to make before a deadline and since the space has never really been properly set up or moved into, it is much needed.

Now is not the time for me to be looking at pictures online of other ladies' sewing rooms, with all their beautiful sergers and Berninas and what-not set up in neat, spacious, dedicated "studios". I can't say that I haven't peeked at a few pictures, though.

My sewing corner. I love the two windows; one faces south and one faces west. Both let the daylight pour in!!

On the left is my 40 year old Singer Futura II 920. I am currently in a love-hate relationship with it. I love that it has the ability to do some cute vintage stitching patterns (Scottie-dogs and tulips, anyone?) and I have a bunch of the stitching pattern wheels (it uses these disc-like wheels that you put onto the machine for different stitch patterns beside the basics). The hate part is that the feed-dogs are worn and broken completely smooth and sewing on it is very difficult, or almost impossible now, for that reason. I plan to call the repair shop and find out if it is repairable. If not, I may be sadly kissing it goodbye.

On the right is a machine my mother-in-law loaned me and it is newer (maybe only 15 or 20 years old, ha!) but a very basic, bare-bones sewing machine. I'm not sure if there's a manual with it and it has a few quirks that I have to work around, but for basic sewing it does what I need it to (I have yet to figure out button-holes on it, eek.).

My lovely sewing chair is at the top of my "get a new one" list. The folding chair sits too low and gets uncomfortable when one is parked in it for a length of time (thus the pillow). It is also awkward to maneuver around and in. A swivel, wheelie chair is what I plan to get, hopefully before too long.

Both Daniel and I aren't sure that this is the most efficient set-up for this space. Storage is a major issue (for everything sewing related) and I would like to turn the end wall into storage in some way. Perhaps a low cupboard or bookshelf or two, side-by-side. We'll have to see what I find that fits the budget. For now I think diaper boxes are going to be my friend for storing my fabric.

Speaking of fabric, the den couch has been holding many stacks of my fabric collection. Most of the fabric has been given to me and I am so very, very thankful for it. Several weeks ago I started sorting by general color, but that got disheveled when I started sewing for Christmas gifts.

The ironing board is definitely moving. I may put it at the end of my nook for now and see how I like having it there. On the floor beneath it are bags and boxes of fabric. 2 of the bags are flannel and felt that a lady from church gave me!! The flannel is primarily pastel children's prints so I hope to turn it into pajamas and nightgowns. I haven't decided what to do with the felt yet, it is several yards of red and black. Another bag is dresses and jumpers that I plan to take apart and re-use the fabric. A woman's jumper of dark maroon corduroy? A floor-length dress covered in white eyelet? Yes, please!!

After taking these pictures I went through two smaller boxes of notions that I have collected ever since I started sewing (what feels like years ago!) and got them both emptied and the contents sorted and organized for the most part. Finding so many spools of different colors of thread really makes me want to halt the organizing part and just sew something!!

My oldest sister offered for me to look through her fabric collection over New Years and I am eager to see what kind of treasures I might come home with. Susannah will need summer clothes before I know it and I would really enjoy making them for her (but I need to get on the ball with that because I doubt I will be doing much serious sewing for a while after the new baby comes)!

I can't wait to show you "after" pictures. I haven't figured out yet what my best option is for storing the fabric, yet, but something must happen and it won't happen with me sitting here pecking on the keyboard. :)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Wonderful Christmas-Time

Early in December when we had our week of stay-cation, one thing we did was get down all the nativity scenes. Two are toy sets that Susannah could hardly wait to get her hands on and both she and Sylvia have loved playing with them this month. Another set is a ceramic set that I put out of little fingers' reach on top of the piano, and then we also have this set that is plastic. I remember how special it was to arrange and re-arrange and pretend with my mom's manger scene, so I made sure to put this set where little people could do the same. I did set a boundary that the pieces had to stay on the table, but they were free to play and arrange to their hearts content. They have and have enjoyed it. :)

Wanting to teach our children what Christmas is all about, we told or read many Bible stories surrounding Jesus' birth for bedtime stories. Sometimes telling them without a book or Bible, and other times we would take a few days and go through different of their Childrens Bibles. They are both very much aware that Christmas is Jesus' birthday.  It didn't stop Susannah from knowing that Christmas also meant presents, though. ;-)

On Tuesday before Christmas the girls and I made a birthday cake for Jesus. Susannah then asked several times if the "real Jesus" and Mary, Joseph and the angel were coming to our house for His birthday. :-)  I had to do some fast thinking to figure out how to answer her that Jesus is in Heaven at the right hand of God, and Mary and Joseph lived a loooong time ago and are not alive now; BUT that when we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins and give us a new heart, He then lives in our hearts.  I don't know how much of it made sense to her, probably more than I think, but it was the answer I had.

This year I decided that I wanted to make stockings for our family. After seeing stockings made from thrifted sweaters, I wanted to do it, too. Unique and fun. Probably not as inexpensive as regular stockings from WalMart (our closest Goodwill is NOT cheap!), but lots more character! In November we purchased the sweaters and I started turning them into stockings last week. It took a little longer to get the hang of it (and to remember to turn the sweater INSIDE-OUT before tracing and cutting!!!), but by the 4th stocking I was moving right along. I finished sewing the hanging loops on them the afternoon of Christmas Eve and Susannah helped me hang them up. She was SO excited!! I was pretty excited, too, and couldn't wait to put our goodies in them after they went to bed. (I didn't grow up with stockings and always wanted Christmas stockings. Maybe that's why it's very exciting for me to do this for our girls.)

Daniel and I were both up late and the girls were up early. :-)  Susannah could barely contain her excitement over knowing there were things in her stocking!!  As soon as Daniel and I were up and had our bearings about us, we let them dig into their stockings. They had so much fun! We put very practical but fun things in them: a new toothbrush (Susannah got a new tube of toothpaste, too), a miniature box of raisins, a baggie with Cheerios and Goldfish, and an orange. They dug right into the munchies as I knew they would and that bought me a little more time to finish putting together our simple but yummy breakfast.

I had made Monkey Bread the night before so all I had to do was pull it out of the fridge, let it rise a bit and stick it in the oven (it was a new recipe, here, and I highly recommend it!). We also had bacon and eggs; the bacon was already baked (leftover from a family get-together on Saturday) and all I had to do was fry up some eggs. It was all so yummy! The Monkey Bread and bacon are special treats for us, which fit with our "special food for Christmas Day" tradition. While we waited for the eggs and bacon to finish, we read the Christmas Story as a family, sitting around the table. That was special and we were reminded again of why the day was so special.

After breakfast we opened our wrapped gifts. The girls went first and it is always fun to watch them. We kept our gifts very simple this year, but some were very exciting. Sylvia got some story books that I had been on the look-out for and found either at our MOPS swap or the thrift store, and a new notebook to draw in and a sheet of ladybug stickers. Susannah had been asking for a few specific things that we gave her. Glitter markers were at the top of her list and she got those with a new notebook. Nail polish so we could paint ladybugs on her nails was also very high on the list, and her wish was granted. :-)  She loves looking at my jewelry so I found the perfect necklace for her: a ladybug on a simple chain. We saved that gift for last and it was her special gift. It was sweet to watch Daniel helping her open the box and then help her put it on. I envisioned what they might look like in 10-ish-plus years when perhaps she might receive a pearl necklace, or diamond earrings, or whatever. *sniff*

Haha, Daniel and I were pretty practical. :-)  I gave him some tools including a new splitting maul, he gave me a cheese slicer (a very nice one!), 2 movies for date-nights and ... a freestanding toilet-roll holder for our master bathroom. I will really enjoy not having the TP on the bathroom counter anymore.

After we opened gifts we relaxed as a family until lunch. Lunch was more of our traditional, special foods. Oh, and we use paper plates for all meals to maximize our time of relaxing and being together! A shrimp-ring, summer sausage, Lebanon Bologna, cheese and crackers were the main course along with the oranges that were in the stockings. For dessert we had Jesus' birthday cake!!

We relaxed some more, enjoying our family time together. Before nap-time I sneaked the girls' dolls upstairs while Daniel and the girls went to their room to wait for one more special gift (that we didn't wrap). A while ago I got this wooden cradle (also from our MOPS swap) and had been keeping it for a special occasion. When the sewing bug bit this fall after the canning and garden were done, I started off with sewing cloth diapers for their dolls. After I made Susannah's dress I used the leftovers to make her doll a matching dress. Sylvia got a blanket for her doll since she didn't have one.  I got both dolls fixed up in their new things and brought them in the cradle to the girls' room.

The girls love the cradle and Sylvia knows which pink doll blankie is hers. Dear Susannah had done some digging around in my sewing corner Christmas Eve morning and found the doll dress, so it wasn't the surprise it was meant to be, but she was still happy to finally have it on her Baby! Both girls mothered their babies a lot today. :-)

Daniel's parents came over and joined us for a simple dinner and it was nice to visit and relax with them as we wound down the evening. This morning Daniel headed back to work and the girls and I had a good day getting back into normal routines and doing housework. Susannah asked this morning if it is still Christmas. I told her that it is still Christmas-time. In fact, we had more of Jesus' birthday cake for dessert tonight.

While Christmas Day is now behind us, we are still listening to Christmas music and enjoying Christmas-time. Merry Christmas to all of you!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Too Much Party?

You know the Berenstain Bears story "Too Much Party"? That's how I feel. Peopled out. Socialed out. Get everybody dressed up and loaded up and drive to be around more people -ed out. Really struggling with the thought of going to the Christmas Eve service vs. staying home and having our own little quiet "service".

Which should I do? Which will bring much-needed nourishment to my soul? Good quality spiritual food, the meat and potatoes kind, has felt far and few between from our church's pulpit this year (we are between Senior pastors). A lot of milky sermons that leave my heart and soul begging and crying and longing for MORE. I try and listen to meat and potatoes sermons on the radio but they are during hours of the day when I am in full-blown parenting mode.

If I/we (Daniel's on call so I can't have any idea if he'll be home or not this evening) stay home from the Christmas Eve service, is that giving in to my selfish, moping "don't wanna go anywhere" desires? Is that just having an ornery attitude? If I do get us all ready and go, is that being sacrilegious since I'll be there but don't really want to be (at least right now I don't really want to be)?

I don't know and wish I did. That there were some special formula to have the answer.

It's not that I don't want to celebrate Christmas. I do. I really, really do. I just don't want to go anywhere to do anything. I bet Mary kinda felt that way, too, huh? 9 months pregnant and having to travel several days, probably surrounded by other people also traveling - maybe even whispering and making comments about her pregnancy, to end up in a crazy-busy town full of more people. My guess is that she was not a social butterfly but more of a quiet, contemplative kind.

I have rambled a bit here, trying to see if sorting my thoughts out would give me any type of "a-ha!" revelations. That hasn't happened. Maybe a nap followed by some quality Christmas music will help.

Friday, December 13, 2013

When You Have Sewing Fever...

...and you discover that "the bigger WalMart" actually has a sewing section, then see a sign marked "Clearance" over bolts of fabric, you just have to go look. And when you see two bolts of fabric that would look darling made into little girls' dresses, and you feel the fabric and it is nice and soft (not coarse and stiff feeling), and then you look at the marked down price-tag and think it is a good price...

Well, it just couldn't stay there at the store any more. I don't have a specific dress pattern in mind but I did buy a couple patterns a few weeks ago and will likely use them to make Susannah and maybe Sylvia dresses or jumpers. I can't wait to decide what to create and then have fun finding all the trimmings to go with!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Being Random

This is in no order at all, just things I've thought or thought about recently.

I am a member of an online local "for sale" group. I frequently see people selling name-brand - like BIG name-brand - shoes, clothes, decorations that are brand new and never use. Things like "cleaning out my closet and found..." or "bought this and never use it..." often accompany. Sometimes it's multiples of the same thing, like "6 pair of shoes, new in boxes, never worn."  Seriously?? It blows my mind to consider buying something expensive and then never using it.

Over vacation I asked Daniel to get our 2nd toilet brush out of the attic. We only had one bathroom for so long that our second toilet brush was packed away. While he was up there I asked him to get down three boxes. Just any boxes he chose, so that I could sort through and purge the contents. I have yet to open the boxes but know they are all full of glass dishes that were wedding gifts. I hope it's an easy purge; not for sentimental reasons because I honestly won't remember who gave us what anymore, but because I am being picky with how much I fill up space with stuff.

An empty box, a small handful of nails, a toy hammer and some pre-poked nail-holes has provided lots of entertainment for the girls lately. So much so that today I had to make a second box so they could both hammer nails at the same time.

We got new flannel sheets several weeks ago. Our old set had worn completely through. The new set is so lovely to snuggle into each night!

I never liked grapefruit as a kid. For a long time we only got yellow grapefruit (when the neighbor boys sold it for the FFA), then pink became an option and Mom started ordering that. Mom and the other grapefruit likers in my family exclaimed how much sweeter the pink kind was; I still never liked it. Then I was pregnant with Sylvia and one day decided I needed to taste pink grapefruit. I have loved it ever since. This summer I wondered if I would still like it this winter (since I typically only buy it in-season) and I sure do!  Susannah and Sylvia like it, too, though not quite as much as I do. Sylvia will eat a bite and make the most horrible sour-face and then ask for more.

I am still loving having my sewing machines set up and operating. I have so much sewing and creating that I want to do. Early this fall I finished sewing the kitchen valences that I started several years ago. I love seeing them hanging in the kitchen and they look perfect there. Then Susannah was in desperate need of bigger clothes to wear for church this winter. The fabric stash did not yield enough of the right kind of fabric so we went fabric shopping. By burning the midnight-and-beyond oil for a week, I made her dress. From purchasing the pattern on Sunday to her wearing her new dress to church the following Sunday. Her excitement made the early mornings so worth it.

I hope to become more efficient and familiar with sewing (again) so I can continue to turn out clothes for our children to wear. Each day when gets dressed and I see that her pants are getting shorter and wearing thinner, I toy with the thought - for just a moment - of re-purposing Daniel's jeans into new jeans for her. I think that's a bit beyond my ambition at the moment plus the demin from his jeans would be very heavy for her.

On that note, I am off to start the dryer for two of four sweaters we bought at Goodwill so I can get them turned into Christmas stockings. :)  Then I will head upstairs and very carefully try to sew the second sleeve onto a doll dress (that I've already ripped off once).

Monday, December 9, 2013

Vacation in December

It has been way too long since we've vacationed as just us (we had 3 weeks of vacation this year: 1 was a work-on-the-house addition week, 1 was at the beach with my sister's family, and one left), so with Daniel having vacation time available we decided to take this past week of vacation and just stay home. It was a welcome break after a whirlwind of Thanksgiving related trips and events.  Daniel had a list of projects he wanted to work on and got quite a few things accomplished!

On Monday he and the girls spent the morning outside getting things ready for him to gather leaves. They took a trip or two around the yard on the lawn-mower just for kicks. I spent a lot of that morning catching up on the mountain of dishes that had piled up over the preceding very busy days. I enjoyed being able to work without interruptions. :)  At one point I looked out the window and saw this:

He was giving his girls AND their dollies a ride on the lawn-mower (not mowing, just riding). During naptime he borrowed his dad's fancy riding mower with a leaf gathering attachment and got up a lot of our leaves, putting them on the garden for compost.

Tuesday day he spent the day helping a friend with an urgent project they needed his help and expertise with. That was a long day for me, but we're all glad he was able to fix their problem (which was a safety hazard). Because we needed to do it and since Daniel was going to be gone all day the girls and I did a major grocery shopping trip to Costco and Kroger. It was a morning and most of the afternoon ordeal and I was about done-in till we got home, but we made it and the coffers are restocked for a while!

On Wednesday Daniel spent a few hours in the morning and all afternoon getting wood from a friends' property to boost our firewood supply. There is still a lot left that he wants to get, but he was glad to be able to get what he did get in one day. (It is just cut, not split yet.) That morning I just did not feel like being home doing home-things so the girls and I went and did a little Christmas shopping. I didn't find what I was looking for at that store but did find a great gift for Susannah. She spied it first in the store and doesn't know I bought it. :) That night we watched the original Winnie The Pooh movie that I picked up for $1 a while back. Susannah has been asking to watch it and it was perfect for winding down the day together as a family.

That evening while waiting to eat supper Sylvia gave me the perfect opportunity to get a picture of how she sucks her fingers and holds her blankie.  She likes to make a "hole" in her blankie, wrapping the satin trim around the pointer finger of her left hand. This is how she snuggles, cuddles and sleeps. Sometimes she will wrap the little finger of her right hand (the one she sucks) AND the pointer finger of her left hand and snuggle that way. Aaaand... of course sometimes she sticks her finger up her nose to be silly. :)  

Thursday the girls and I spent much of the morning outside playing while Daniel worked on getting his load of recycling ready to take to the scrap metal place. It was an unseasonably warm day and it was good to get a bunch of fresh air and exercise before the cold front started coming in. That evening we watched The Sound of Music Live!, starting out with all of us watching and then we tucked the girls in about half-way through. Susannah loved it and has been asking to watch "the lady with the children" again. It was great to just sit and relax together.

Friday morning Daniel puttered around here doing different things outside and then in the afternoon tore the car apart to fix a leak in the heater core and trying to find a possible leak in the radiator. Thankfully the radiator did not have a leak!  I purposely made sure we would eat supper a little bit early so we could go on a family date afterwards. As soon as supper was over we got into our coats and drove to a small but very good Gelati (Italian ice cream) place. None of us had ever had gelati before but I've always had high recommendations from friends. It was a really fun and special treat. Daniel had Cookies & Cream, I had a scoop of Dark Chocolate (so, so, so good!) and a scoop of Mango (also good, but the Dark Chocolate was the best), Susannah chose Pomegranate since she wanted pink ice cream and that was the pink one she chose, and Sylvia had Strawberry. We all had tastes of each others' flavors and they were all yummy. The flavors were very true and fresh tasting.

Saturday morning was another exciting time! We went and got our Christmas tree. We had been planning to go to a tree farm, but spied a pre-cut lot while we were out Friday. We decided to look there first and found a very pretty tree to bring home. This is the first time we've had a fir tree and it is considerably heavier than the pines we've had previous years. Getting it to stay in the upright position was a little more of a challenge since it is heavier, but we finally got it up!

Saturday afternoon it started a wintery mix of weather and our church services were cancelled Sunday. We had a very relaxed breakfast (Daniel made us all eggs and toast), stayed in our pajamas for a while, I took a much-needed unhurried shower, and then had a time of reading Scripture and the Jesus Storybook Bible.

After that Daniel started stringing the lights on the tree. I caught this picture of Sylvia and Daniel. :)  The lights are on the tree now and I will work at decorating it this week. It is really pretty just as it is, too!

Since Daniel did not officially work on any projects Sunday we had a nice relaxing afternoon. Since he was home and everything was going smoothly, I mixed up a batch of gingerbread cookie dough towards the end of naptime (it had to chill in the refrigerator for a while). After supper we cleaned off the table and we all worked at making cookies. It was quite an adventure and I think Daniel got a little dose of what my daily life can be like sometimes. ;)  He helped Sylvia with her ball of dough and I helped Susannah.

Sylvia was all about poking the dough with her fingers and was finished before the dough ran out.

Cheesing at the ceiling instead of the camera!

Susannah wanted to try all different cookie cutters so it took a little longer for us to get through our dough and fill our cookie sheet, but we got there!

Then the fun part of adding the sprinkles!! That may well have been Susannah's favorite part. I got out all the sprinkles and sugars that she could use and let her go to town with them on "her" tray of cookies.

Some of her cookies were very well sprinkled!!

Sylvia was too busy doing other things to sprinkle her cookies so the first tray went unsprinkled. Daniel had fun doing the few cookies that ended up on a 3rd tray. I think he was secretly having fun. ;)

Susannah's cookie tray... and she wasn't finished yet! The large train cookie got lots and lots more sprinkles till she finished!

Susannah made sure that Daniel's cookies had enough of all the right colors of sprinkles on them.

While the cookies baked we got the girls into their pajamas. Before brushing their teeth they each got to eat a smaller cookie, fresh from the oven.

Today Daniel is back to work and both girls asked where he was when they woke up. The snow and ice are melting and pretty much gone (but a good possibility of snow in the forecast tomorrow! Yippee!). It is back to the reality of single-parenting for me and delving back into real housekeeping and homemaking. I think it was Tuesday afternoon that I decided we were going to use paper plates for ALL of the remaining vacation meals. Even though there were still dishes from cooking, utensils and cups to wash or run through the dishwasher, it was nice to be able to just open the trash can and have the dirty plates gone! Somehow we still generated enough dishes to run a dishwasher full every day. :)

Having this break between the busy of Thanksgiving and the upcoming busy of Christmas was so nice. It was great to not have to pack suitcases and haul our stuff anywhere. We got to sleep in our own beds, have all of our cupboard, freezer and pantry things at our fingertips, we didn't have to worry about the girls touching or breaking things that don't belong to us, and best of all we didn't have to pay anything to stay here or buy gas to travel anywhere!

I might just be thinking about suggesting that have staycation this week every year!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Simple Womans Daybook ~ Nov. 11 & 12

Susannah (still in her "lifesaver pajamas") and Sylvia 
doing "school".

I am thinking... about my mom-friends. One friend going through chemo at the age of 30. One friend with a few-week-old and a 2 year old who is just tired. One friend who's baby will only drink from a bottle so she faithfully pumps day in and day out so he can get the "good stuff"; pumping is exhausting in itself. I'm not currently in any of those stages or shoes, but I am familiar with just. being. tired. So I am thinking of them and praying for them today. Thinking of how I might be able to lend a helping hand. If you know a mother of young(-er) children, why not find a way to be an encouragement today? Just something simple. It makes a difference to know somebody cares.

I am thankful for... our MOPS group. Where we can "let our hair down" and share, laugh, cry, encourage, learn and lean on each other.
     I'm also thankful for our woodpile. This week is forecast to turn chilly and it is so nice to be able to heat our house for "free".

From my kitchen... I made Rosemary Peasant Bread on Saturday. I have a bowl of picked turkey in the fridge from a turkey that had been buried in the depths of the freezer. At least some of it will be something pot-pie-like for dinner tonight. I am enjoying my {almost completely} purged kitchen. I rearranged a few things so there is less on my countertops and I am LOVING the cleared spaces!

I am reading... Tender Mercy for a Mother's Soul by Angela Thomas. Lots of children's books. :) Looking through Daniel's "This Old House" magazines over and over, looking for inspiration and ideas.

I am hoping... for a really great week this week. It has started of well and I am praying that it keeps going that way. Daniel is on call this week on top of it turning cold so there is potential for many single-parent days ahead of me. Grace, strength and wisdom.
     I would also like to FINISH the kitchen-purging project. I don't think the remainder will take long to do and I'm ready to be done so I can move on to another area AND so I can enjoy my purged kitchen to the fullest. :)

I am creating... Saturday (or Friday?) the sewing bug bit me and I made two diapers for Susannah's baby doll. They will be for Christmas gifts. I want to make some more out of different patterned fabric. I don't have any velcro so I need to get some of that to completely finish any diapers I make. I was very happy with how the two I did get made turned out since I was just eye-balling and made the pattern on the spur of the moment.

I am hearing... silence. The girls are napping and my own eyelids are heavy.  I may need to get a power-nap next.

Around the house... I am way behind on folding the clean laundry. I ended up pushing pause on this post yesterday and took a nap. Now to finish it!! Daniel replaced the broken toilet seats I mentioned in the last post. The girls and I took our almost-daily jaunt outside after lunch and I brought in a wheelbarrow load of wood. The low tonight is supposed to be 25° so I'm sure we will use it. I have been enjoying burning a candle most days. Anyone have a good suggestion for where I could find nice-smelling candles affordably?

A few plans for the week... Stay warm. ;) Get caught up with all the laundry. Finish the kitchen project like I mentioned earlier. Maybe get to a store to buy some velcro so I can continue on with sewing the diapers for Susannah's doll. Stay sane if Daniel is gone all day, every day. 

Watching the berries in the wheat grinder.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Organizing and Purging

Several weeks ago I stumbled across a new blog, Organizing Homelife. I don't even remember now how I found it, but find it I did and wow! I didn't turn back. When I started reading the blog she was in the middle of her October series, 31 Days to Organize Your Kitchen Frugally. Since I was in the midst of a major bug-bite from the Purge The Kitchen bug, this was a fantastic find.

What I thought was going to be a week-long project of purging and organizing the kitchen has turned into a several-week-long project. Being pregnant (and feeling more pregnant every day it seems) and having 2 little girls to keep occupied or have as "helpers" means I don't have the energy or time to get things done as fast as I think I will sometimes. I have purged and purged. My yard-sale pile has grown. I threw out several plastic containers and a bazillion plastic lids that I no longer had containers for. Things that I didn't really want to store in my kitchen anyway went into a box until I figure out a new home for it. Just get it OUT of the kitchen so I can have less stuff and more space either for better storage of things I actually use or just to not have cupboards quite so crowded. Less is definitely more.

One of the cupboards that has been irking me has been my cookbook and stereo cupboard (the stereo in my kitchen was a Mother's Day gift 2 years ago). I gave my cookbooks a serious purging quite a while ago, but my CD storage has been a growing source of annoyance. On Monday I decided it was time to tackle this space.

Before. Wait, the cat's flea medicine doesn't need to be in here!

Another area of the cupboard I really wanted to improve was my magazine holder for a few loose recipes and a few Taste of Home magazines that I haven't clipped from yet. I have been using a cut-down box but it was gaping and just overall something I wanted to change.

Before, again.
Hello "I want to play the  CD in the middle" night-mare!
(The make-shift cereal box "magazine" holder is hiding on the left.) 

I have been thinking for a while about how to store my CDs more efficiently both space- and accessibility-wise. After rolling the idea of "something smaller" around in my head I realized that something like a CD wallet would be the perfect solution.  Yesterday morning we ran some errands and found what I hope is a great solution. It wasn't exactly what I had in mind (I was looking for something more like this), but I wanted it "now" and didn't want to go to several stores searching. What we did get were these 3-ring binder inserts. Since I don't keep a lot of CDs in that cabinet anyway, a slim 1" ring binder will work great and take up even less space than a CD wallet like I thought I originally wanted. I didn't even have to buy a ring binder because I already had one here at home waiting to be put to good use. Win-win! Over nap-time I worked on the change-over and I am really excited to have easier - and less hazardous - access to my CDs. Even more than that, I'm excited to have a less crowded cabinet! Less is more. :)

After. I removed the cat medicine and decided that appliance
manuals would be better stored in the file cabinet.

 To improve the make-shift magazine holder situation, I remembered that we had a real magazine holder that wasn't in current use. It helps the cupboard have a much neater look and I don't have to worry about the sides sagging open any more. When making this change-over I did purge some recipes that I realistically wasn't going to try and generally neatened up the space.

After, zoomed in.
On the left of the CD notebook are our church 
and Sunday School Directories,
my Thankful Journal, and my notebook for 
writing down ideas, lists, projects, and so on. 


The other great purchase we made yesterday that I hope will make my life easier and more clutter-free was a 13 pocket expanding file folder. I have come to realize that our file cabinet just doesn't work for me. Rather, I don't make it work for me because I don't want to. Obviously if I prefer to put the receipts and paid bills in a pile somewhere instead of filing them, the file cabinet is not the answer to my, er, problem. "Hi, my name is Miriam and I have a problem..."

My new "piling" system. :-)

Inspired by this post on Organizing Homelife I think I have a simple, easy-to-use, HANDY way to take care of bills, receipts, stubs and all that other "stuff" that usually goes into my pile-file. I am going to try sorting simply by month. All paperwork from each month will go into that month's pocket. At the end of the year I will empty it, probably into a manilla folder, and stick it in the attic with the other paperwork we keep. Rarely do I have to go back and find a bill or receipt so it think this will work fine. If I feel the file-by-month method is a little too unorganized I still think the expanding file will work well as a simplified categorical miniature filing system.

No "before" pictures but already I am finding this SO easy to use!

It has been fun sharing these ideas and improvements with you.  I hope you've enjoyed reading this post and perhaps even been inspired to create some organized space in your home. Have you had any great organizational or purging light-bulb moments lately? Did you actually do something about it? I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spinach and Chocolate (Yeah, maybe I am pregnant!)

This is the blog post in which I must make a confession or two. My first confession is that I never liked spinach unless it was fresh and in a salad. Cooked greens of any type just do not do it for me. Ever. Period. No matter how they're cooked, seasoned, dressed, flavored, I just can't do it. I mean, I can. I'm a big girl and can choke down a bite or two to be polite to the host but the whole time I have this "moo-ing" sound going on in my head feeling like I'm chewing silage (what cows eat).

My second confession would be that I finally gave in to some recipes that called for spinach and looked so good. I was super skeptical but for some reason every time I looked at the pictures and read the recipes it just seemed like they would be utterly delicious.

Ham, Spinach and Tomato Frittata

I had a bag of frozen, chopped spinach in the freezer and one Saturday morning while Daniel and the girls were eating their traditional Saturday morning breakfast of cold cereal I tried the first recipe. The recipe is for Ham, Spinach and Tomato Frittata. I started reading Aliesha's blog, Feather in Our Nest last month and it was one of those "can't put it down until you read the entire archives - in order" kind of blogs. Anyway, I made the frittata generally following her recipe and adding cheese on top. 'Cause I'm a cheese girl. :-) It was so good!  Since then I've been making it a lot. At least a few times a week a lot. Daniel and the girls like it, too (Susannah calls it "froo-tata!!"). I love the mixture of flavors and that I'm getting iron from a good source (spinach). This recipe was just the start of my slide down the slippery slope...

The second spinach recipe I wanted to try was one I had seen early this year and thought it looked good, but ew, cooked spinach?? However, I kept thinking about it and looking at it. After loving the Ham, Spinach and Tomato Frittata I decided I had to at least try this other recipe. The recipe is for Skillet-Poached Eggs with Spinach, Pea Tendrils and Leeks (from A few things going against my mind here were the "poached eggs" and the amount of spinach. I've never eaten/couldn't imagine eating poached eggs. I've seen too many runny-egg pictures of poached eggs to begin thinking of eating them. But, lo and behold, I still thought the recipe looked too good to not try at least once.

I didn't (and don't) have any pea tendrils or leeks, so I loosely follow the recipe. I use onion, frozen chopped spinach, bits of ham, the eggs (of course) and some pepper. (The ham I'm currently using is salty country ham so I don't need to add any salt.) After I saute the vegetables and meat I slide them to the sides and crack in the eggs. After seasoning with pepper I cover the skillet with a lid and let everything cook until the eggs are DONE. No runny egg for me, noooo thank you. The surprising thing? It is REALLY good. I do like to make sure my bites of spinach all have some egg with them, but even alone it's pretty good. SCORE for another great-tasting source for iron from spinach! I make this recipe about once a week, depending on how I feel like eating my eggs that day. :) I don't think I've made this for the girls but Daniel has tasted off my plate and said it was different but not bad. It is especially good served with a slice of buttered whole wheat toast. :)

Now on to the chocolate part. We ran out of milk on Tuesday. That meant Wednesday morning I had to miss my morning cup of Café con chocolate leche. (My fancy wording for mixing coffee with chocolate milk. ;-) ) I had hoped to pick up milk while I was in town Wednesday but the timing didn't work out. After church I mentioned to Daniel that we needed milk but I didn't want to unload-load the girls at the store just for milk (I needed to go grocery shopping sometime soon anyway). He had driven to church in his work van and Susannah was riding home with him. Sylvia and I got home before they did and they weren't right behind us like I thought they would be. After a while they got home. Lo and behold, not only did they have MILK, but Daniel had brought me a chocolate bar, too! And it wasn't just any old chocolate bar. It was Hershey's WITH ALMONDS.

He said that when they were getting ready to buy the milk he picked up the candy bar to buy also. Susannah asked what it was for and he told her "because it will make Mama happy." "Is Mama sad?" was her question. He told her no, I wasn't, but the chocolate would still make me happy. When I was giving him a hug and telling him thank-you for the chocolate - possibly grinning like a fool the whole time - he turned to Susannah and asked "What did I say the chocolate would do for Mama?" "Make her happy!!" was her answer.

Yes, it sure did make me happy. That morning I needed some chocolate medicine and broke into a plain Hershey bar because that was the best I could do. Needless to say, the next time I needed some chocolate medicine I went for the Hershey's with Almonds candy bar. It might not have lasted very long, either...

There you have it. My blog post about spinach and chocolate. I just need to make sure I eat more spinach than chocolate. ;-)

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Little of This and That

This past Sunday afternoon the sewing bug bit. I him-hawed a bit about starting a new project I really want to do or finishing one I started a couple years ago (isn't that embarrassing?!). I decided to be responsible and finish the already started project. I bought this fabric about 8 years ago from the remnant section at WalMart; it was very inexpensive. I bought it planning to make curtains for our then living room. I never got around to it and eventually decided I didn't want that fabric in the living room anyway.  Then we had our major move-the-kitchen/remodel project and I realized the fabric was perfect for in the kitchen. Fast forward to Sunday, and I discovered how very close to finished the two valances actually were. I just had to finish sewing the rod-pockets and they were ready to hang. I got my sewing therapy AND have a finished project. :-)  Daniel hung one of the valances for me last night; when I can find another curtain rod or go buy another one, we'll have them both hung up. It's been a long time coming and I really like them.

Over the summer, and more seriously this fall, Daniel has been working at splitting and stacking wood for this winter. He split plenty by hand, but a few weeks ago he borrowed a splitter and really went to town with it. The entire back row is filled, and the front row is almost filled now. With the weather turning cooler this week I'm really thankful for his dedication and hard work!  In fact, tonight - after running an after-hours call for work and getting home at 8:30 - he is working at cleaning out the chimney for the wood-stove so that we can start the stove. I'm not sure if we'll have our first fire tonight or later this week.

Susannah and Sylvia have been enjoying the out-of-doors this fall. One day after lunch we went out and after taking pictures of the different colors of leaves I took some of them. I like this one even though it's a little posed. :-)

I have been feeling great the past several days and last week made good progress on my purge and organize the kitchen project. I think that tomorrow I will tackle the food cupboards and maybe even the fridge if I get that far. So far I am doing it the lazy way and haven't done any specific cleaning. At some point, though, the cabinet fronts desperately need wiped off.

Somehow I am still in a major don't-want-to-cook rut. Eggs? I love eggs. I would eat them for every meal if I could. Almost all of my breakfasts these days are eggs in some form. The other night I even made eggs for my 4th meal. Lunch and dinner? I don't really have any desire or clue what to make.  I don't know if I need new recipes or what. Maybe I'll try a new soup recipe this week that I've always thought sounded good.

Daniel is on call this week and with the weather turning cold at the same time, I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for long, single-parenting days ahead. On that note, it is almost midnight and I should be heading to bed so I can be rested up for another day tomorrow.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Simple Woman's Daybook ~ October 14

It has been a long time since I've done one of these and thought it would be fun to do again.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I am thinking ...about a young mother in our church who was recently diagnosed with cancer. They have 2 girls about the same age as our girls. The mother is just a bit younger than I am.  My life seems very uncomplicated and stress-free all of the sudden. My heart aches for this family as they are still finding out more information and treatment details.
   ... I also think that it's nice to see the sunshine again. :) All last week it was chilly, cloudy and rainy. The girls were inside almost all of the time. Today they went outside and played for a while.

I am thankful for... the opportunity to go on a very relaxing and refreshing retreat with couples from our Sunday School class this past weekend. One morning we spent time in the Word and in prayer for each other. It was a sweet time of deepening relationships beyond the quick small talk as we pass each other in church.

I painted my nails while we were on the retreat. Susannah and Sylvia both noticed
and Susannah asked this morning if I could paint their nails the same color.
(Their nails are a lot lighter than mine since I only give them one coat.)

From my kitchen... I don't have any food-making plans today; I made Taco Soup and Chicken and Dumplings late last week and we will be eating from those leftovers for supper. I did just recently get a set of Pyrex storage bowls. :-D I am in the process of purging, cleaning, re-arranging and organizing my cupboards to find the best place for them to fit and getting rid of some things that I don't use or love enough to merit keeping.

I am reading...

  What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Children's Allergies and Asthma: Simple Steps to Help Stop Attacks and Improve Your Child's Health
I don't think I'm quite half-way through and it has been enlightening. Allergies (food and environmental) and asthma are both things we have in our family and the information this book contains is not stuff you would learn from a typical trip to the doctor. I borrowed it from the library and it was timely as this fall I have had mild asthma attacks after almost 10 years of none.

I am hoping ...Hmm, what am I hoping. I am hoping to make great progress in the kitchen project this afternoon/week. I am hoping to get a few things photographed and advertised today to sell and that they sell! I am hoping that Daniel will have time to get some things down from the attic so I can do some fall decorating. I am also hoping he can make a trip to the {other} attic to put away a bunch of things that I have been collecting for storage. I am hoping and praying that my allergy and asthma problems will be put to rest with the new medications my doctor put me on. Prior to this, (this fall) if I was outside for very long at all I had a sore throat the remainder of the day (and eventually asthma cropped up). I am hoping that my cough (from a sinus infection or the asthma? not sure) will clear up soon; it is much better but still coughing.

I am creating... I have lots of ideas in my head. I have a partial idea of what I want to do with this wall. Now I just need to figure out how to create/buy/find what I'm looking for.  This project has been the reason I am slightly, possibly, maybe, might start looking at Pinterest. I have avoided it so far...

I am hearing... the dryer just finished (no line drying these days as much as I'd love to save the electricity). Now it is just me and silence. :-)

"Washing dishes" one day.

Around the house... We have two, yes, TWO, broken toilet seats. The first to break was a super-cheap seat that came with the toilet when we put it in. One of the plastic "bolts" that hold it to the commode snapped. The other seat simply cracked in the actual seat ring and now pinches whomever sits upon it! Nice. I'm sure you wanted to know all about our busted jon seats...  On a better topic, I have been burning a candle or two lately. It adds a nice touch on an otherwise dreary or same-ole, same-ole day.

A few plans for the week... Nothing big or honky-dory. Sometime we want to get some pumpkins and mums for our front steps. That might happen. Otherwise my main "plans" are to do the daily regulars and work on the kitchen project. If by some chance I would finish that and still have some week left, I do have a list of things around the house I want to do this fall. A sort of fall cleaning if you will.

*The pictures in this post are just snapshots from our daily lives lately. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Going to the Fair ~ Part 2

After looking at animals and Susannah enjoying some of the rides, we decided it was a good time to figure out our supper. We had planned to eat "fair food", choosing to splurge with our entertainment fund. :)  Susannah and Sylvia had their first ever corn-dog (they split a foot-long one), Daniel and I each had a foot-long corn-dog and we all shared a "curly fry". Their "curly fries" are one enormous potato spiral cut and french-fried. It was a massive bowl full! Oddly enough, the corn-dog tasted good to me. I don't know why but it did!! We did take along plenty of water so we wouldn't have to spend money on drinks.

There were no utensils for our food so we used Daniel's pocketknife to cut Sylvia's corn-dog into pennies, and used napkins for "plates".  They had little picnic tents set up around the food area which made it very nice to sit down for a while.

Susannah is a snuggler. :)

I asked Daniel to take a picture of Sylvia and me, and she reached up and shared some of her corn-dog when I leaned down toward her!

After our high-cholesterol meal, we meandered our way to the "big wheel" so we could all ride the Ferris Wheel. I did not ask Susannah to smile for either of these next two pictures. She was having so much fun so much of the time.

The Ferris Wheel was the longest "line" we had to wait in, maybe for all of 5 minutes. It was also the ride we got our most money's worth from as we went around more times than we thought we would!  By this time Sylvia was getting tired and snuggled with me much of the ride, but Susannah really enjoyed it.

After the Ferris Wheel we decided to start working our way towards the car. Susannah wanted to look at the rabbits again, so we did that. Then we found the tent with a giraffe, some kangaroos and some other animals (a miniature yak maybe?) but surprisingly none of them really interested Susannah.

What did pique her interest, though, was the equipment displays at the front of the fair entrance. We made a slight detour so she and Sylvia could climb on the various tractors, gators, lawn-mowers, etc. This revived both of them and they had a lot of fun!


After we were finished looking at the equipment (and Daniel and I gathered our jaws up off the ground; they kept falling there when we would see the price-tags!) we looked at a combine and the pen where the fair-cows were spending the night. Susannah got to pet one of the cows, Sylvia wasn't too sure about them as many were lowing and it was a bit loud.

There was a Virginia Tech booth right there that was selling bar-b-que and for some reason I really wanted some (I was hungry and it smelled SO GOOD). We had taken some cash along figuring some of the booths would be cash-only, and it happened that the bar-b-que booth was one and we were $1 short! *sigh* My taste-buds were disappointed but I knew I would live just fine.

The walk back to our car felt like miles and miles and by this time my feet, legs and hips were aching. The girls were tired and one rode the stroller and Daniel carried the other on his shoulders. We made it to the car and back home for a late bed-time.

I can't say that this trip to the fair was something that really excited me, personally, and I don't know if I would go just to go, but it was so much fun taking the girls and enjoying it through their eyes. That made it everything we wanted it to be and then some. :)  I doubt we'll make this an annual tradition but we'll probably do it again sometime and I know Susannah will remember this trip for a very long time.