Flotsam and Jetsam

flotsam and jetsomMy project this month is the attic.

Angel Girl got things started for me – sorting through the things that have a designated place and just needed to go back.

But my job is harder. I’ve been working my way through the piles of stuff that don’t have a home.

The flotsam and jetsam of a family that somehow ended up in the attic.

The orphan shoe.

The pretty ribbon saved from a package.

Scraps of wrapping paper.

An old clock radio.

A cassette tape.

The box of curtains I bought – but never quite got hung.

A random toy horse.

The reproduction fife we bought Matt on vacation when he was four that a sibling later squished.

Random bits and pieces of life, overlooked, outgrown and unneeded on a daily basis.

Every piece must be touched and evaluated .

Keep?

Throw?

Donate?

A million tiny decisions.

The garbage pile gets bigger.

The donate pile tips over.

And there – on a small pile – are the treasures.

The few nuggets worth saving in the piles of stuff.

Mission accomplished.

Topsy Turvey

Jan and I were barely out of the driveway taking Matt to the airport when the kids started taking over Matt’s room.

And I do mean taking over.

It was time.

Matt lived totally out of his suitcase this trip – making it very obvious that he really didn’t need the space. While Angel Girl was having a hard time sharing a room with Dagmar because of her strange work hours.

(Going to work at midnight and coming home to sleep at 8 am makes it hard for Angel Girl to use their room during the day – not to mention the pager thing and the phone calls at all hours.)

Something had to change.

It was obvious I could no longer keep my shrine to Matt’s childhood. While he will always have a place to stay when he comes home (which I hope is frequently!) – he will no longer have a room to call his own.

<heavy sigh>

His siblings carefully and reverently (I hope) packed away the things he left at home and stored them in the attic.

Then things got a little crazy.

When the dust finally settled sometime Saturday night –

~  Dagmar got Matt’s room

~  Buddy got Matt’s dresser

~  Dagmar got Buddy’s dresser

~  Buddy got Matt’s bed

~  Pedro got Matt’s desk

~  Angel Girl got Pedro’s desk

~  We burned 5 bags of trash

~  We gathered three bags of clothes to donate

~  Millions of dust bunnies were exterminated

And everybody’s happy.

And tired.

And slept very well.

Change is emotionally and physically draining.

But you know – it’s also kind of freeing.

And It Is Done.

I made it.

When I woke up the morning of Christmas Eve, I knew that it would be at least New Year’s Day before I came up for air again.

I was right.

Here it is – several days into the New Year, the tree is finally down, the decorations put away for another year, Christmas letters are read, a new calendar is hung, Matt’s back in Colorado,  and I’ve finally come to the end of the laundry piles.

And there – at the bottom of the last pile was the Christmas table cloth, just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

We always eat by candlelight on Christmas Eve, and the candles always drip, and I never seem to have time to get the wax off so I can wash it and pack it away.

And so it waited. Until now.

Today’s list includes, finding my iron, several layers of paper towels, layering them with the tablecloth in the middle, and methodically melting away the wax.

It’s a slow job. But one that doesn’t involve thinking, or even much moving. Unlike the other jobs associated with packing away Christmas.

And for me – it signals the end of the holidays; my last task before I can close the book on Christmas 2012.

And then I can finally say, “It is done.”

Measure. Cut. Sew. Snip. Press. Repeat.

I’ve spent every spare minute the past week cutting material into little tiny pieces and then sewing it back together.

Maybe I’m crazy.

At least a little addicted.

But there’s something very relaxing about cutting little squares and methodically sewing them together to make geometric designs.

Sewing Quilt

My mind wonders as I measure, cut, sew, snip, press, repeat.

I plan menus, pray, listen to music.

Relax.

Measure, cut, sew, snip, press, repeat.

Piece by piece quilt blocks are forming in my hands.

Green. Blue. Plaid. Solid.

Rhythm. Order. Control.

Quilt Blocks

As my hands work, my mind slowly untangles the snarls of the day, almost unconsciously.

Measure, cut, sew, snip, press, repeat.

Schedules are figured out. Projects planned.  Lists created.

Little by little my pile of finished blocks grows – a tangible and very satisfying measure of my time.

A quilt is forming.

And peace reigns.

 

Spring Cleaning

I felt so rested and refreshed after Easter Sunday that I embarked on a rather ambitious project on Monday – I decided to clean the school room.
Cleaning

Our school room is rather misnamed. It should be called the “catch-all”.

It’s the little room tucked off the living room where we have many library shelves filled with books, my file cabinets, a couple of computers that no longer work and lots of stuff that I need to deal with it.

You know the stuff – it’s all the things that you discover while cleaning and don’t know what to do with.

“Just put it in the school room and I’ll decide later.”

And the things that are out and need to be put away quickly because company’s coming.

“Just put it in the school room and close the door. We can put it away later”

But later never came.  Until now.

It was a mess – but I was determined to deal with the clutter. I went through shelf after shelf, sorting through hundreds of books – each one an old friend.

I straightened, organized and yes – even purged a few. (Oh – but that was painful!)

I emptied boxes, sorted computer games, and worked my way through files.

Now three days later – bits and pieces from the school room are spread all over the downstairs as I sort and sift.

But there’s a problem.

I’m out of energy.

And company is coming.

You know what’s going to happen don’t you.

“Just throw it in the school room and I’ll decide later!”

I think I’ll close the door again. 🙂

Homemade Laundry Detergent

SoapOkay – I’m  jumping on the band wagon.

While I’ve seen recipes for homemade laundry detergent all over cyber space for some time – I never quite got my act together to make some.

Until now.

Yes – this country gal finally found the right ingredients – had them all on hand at the same time – and made a batch of laundry soap.

Believe it or not – it was easy. And uber-cheap.

My friend Kimmer sent me this recipe. She got it from her friend Cindy – who found it at Thy Hand Hath Provided.

Homemade Laundry Soap
This recipe makes 5 gallons of concentrate which equals 10 gallons of ready-to-use laundry detergent. 

1 five gallon bucket (clean and with a tight fitting lid)
a long handled spoon
an empty (used) laundry detergent container (or juice or vinegar container, clean)
hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap Bar
1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 cup borax

Grate the Fels Naptha laundry soap bar we used a cheese grater (Well, actually, it was Buddy who used the cheese grater. This was the most time-consuming part of the entire process making it the perfect job for an 11 year old boy. If you don’t have one – you could borrow mine- but he does eat a lot.)

Add the grated Fels Naptha to a medium sauce pan along with 4 cups of water.  Heat over medium high heat while stirring occasionally until the soap has melted completely. (The funny thing is – the grated soap looks like amazingly like grated cheese – causing some puzzled looks since we heated it up as we were making lunch!)

While it’s melting, fill your five gallon bucket half full with hot tap water. (At this point your house will be smelling very – well – soapy. Pedro commented that our house hasn’t smelled this clean since Matt got the air freshener for graduation!)

Once the bar soap has melted, add it to the bucket along with the washing soda and borax.  Stir it well until everything has dissolved.  Add hot tap water to fill the bucket and stir again.

Cover tightly with the lid and let sit overnight to thicken.  Stir well (it will gel and separate a bit).  You have just made concentrate.

When you’re ready to use it, stir the detergent well, then fill your empty detergent container half full with the concentrate.  Fill the rest of the container with water.

Shake before each use.  Use 1/4 cup per load for a front loading machine and 5/8 cup per load for a top loading machine.

 I must confess that I had trouble mixing the concentrate the next morning. It was pretty globby (is that a word?!) and I finally gave up on using a spoon and used my hands to squish the globs.
Finally I measured out enough to half- fill my empty laundry detergent container into a large container, added that much water and used my immersion blender to mix it up. Perfect!
Also – if you are needing a good bucket and lid – I would highly recommend using a 5 gallon bucket and a Gamma Seal Lid . These plastic lids fit tightly on the top of the bucket but easily screw on and off. I love them!
Happy washing!

It’s Habit Forming

I’m about to air some dirty laundry.

Well – actually it’s clean laundry – but that’s the problem.

You see – I have a few pet peeves – and this is one of them:

We spend time gathering dirty clothes, sorting them, washing them, drying them and folding them into nice piles for each child – only to have them dumped in front of their dresser.

Yes – the same dressers that we bought for each child, moved in and helped them organize.

Some kids would leave days worth of clean clothes on the floor – and just dig through it to find what they wanted to wear.

But not anymore.

This momma made a new rule.

By the time our home school starts in the morning – all laundry must be put away.

Of course one of the children asked, “But what if it isn’t?”

I just smiled and said, “You’ll see.”

I checked every day – and I’ll have to admit that the kids did great. It took two weeks before someone forgot. But when they did – I was ready.

I slipped in, grabbed the offending clothes and hid them – saying nothing. Yep – I kidnapped the clothes!

Several days went by. This child looked a little confused – and started wearing some interesting combinations – but said nothing.

Finally when the poor kid had to wear shorts to bed in January because they couldn’t find any more jammie pants – I stepped in.

“Are you missing anything?” I asked – oh so sweetly.

“Um…no. I don’t think so,” replied the offender.

“How about some jammie pants? Or socks?” I volunteered.

“Oops.”

I required a ransom to be paid for the safe return of the missing clothing. They offered a piece of chocolate – but no – I had other ideas.

My upstairs bathroom is now sparkling clean and with all the grunts and groans I heard in the process – I don’t think this child will become a repeat offender.  🙂

Mission accomplished.

Next on my list of pet peeves – making their beds and hanging up the towels in the bathroom.

You know this is kind of fun – and I just hope it’s habit-forming!