Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fix-It February: What Got Done

Remember the show, Everybody Loves Raymond? If you were a fan then you'll remember that broken piece of tile on the kitchen counter. I always liked that a set designer did that. Television represented this reality more recently with Modern Family's broken step. That's real life for most families. Yes, you see it everyday. Yes, you know it needs fixing. But so does dinner, and someone's hair, or broken arm.

Most of us have those projects that nag at us every day. At the beginning of the year I came up with a plan to deal with that stuff around our house. First, January was the great clean-out of 2017. Read about it here. Every drawer, closet, and shelf was emptied. Most of the drawers just stayed empty. Car loads of things went to thrift store drop offs. Bags of things went in the trash. Piles of things got sorted and reorganized.

After all that I was ready for February, the month of repairing and fixing things that were broken. I looked around the house and made a list.
  • Water spots on the bedroom ceiling needed to be primed and painted.
  • The broken soap dish in the tub/shower needed to be replaced.
  • The front of a kitchen drawer needed to be reattached. 
  • A lamp needed to be rewired.
  • My wedding rings needed to be repaired and resized.
  • A damaged family quilt needed to be remade into Euro pillow shams for the guest cottage.
  • A repaired stair step needed staining and the riser painted.
  • I needed to touch up the chipped finish on end table.
  • I wanted to finish an unfinished wall in the honey shed.  
  • I needed a couple of fillings replaced. (nobody said they have to be home repairs)
  • On top of all this I really wanted to clean out and organize our tool shed which was a mess.

How do you go about accomplishing an intimidating list like this? 

First, make a list of what you want to get done.

If it looks like mine you might want to sit down and cry before proceding.

Second, make a list of the things you'll need to get each job done. Do you need primer or a lamp repair kit? Keep the list in your vehicle so you don't have to look for it the day you have time to go to the hardware store.

Third, designate a time to get your projects done. I wanted to do these things before spring when I am busy in the garden and beeyard. I decided February would be the perfect month to knock this stuff out. I did not know that spring would arrive a month early and I'd end up dealing with bees on top of all this!

Fourth, set a deadline. I'm a dreadful procrastinator and a deadline helps me stay on track.  My goal was to have all these things done by the end of the month.

Fifth, write on your calendar the days you have time to get one or two simple things done. For the tool shed reorganiztion I allotted 3 days. Kilzing the water stains on the kitchen ceiling I did in five minutes after painting the riser to the repaired step. I mean, I already had the paintbrush in my hand. 
Some things take much longer than you anticipate, but many things only take a few minutes once we get around to them. 

Sixth, do the things!

Here's a tip: Take a before picture. Especially of a big intimidating project. If you get halfway through and feel overwhelmed you can grab your phone and see where you started. When you are finished and your project is awesome you can give yourself a little credit on social media. It's an extra incentive to keep going when you are tired and wondering why you started this in the first place.

If you do this for all your projects you eventually end up with a little portfolio of the stuff you've done. It's nice to be able to look back at it on days when you don't feel so good about yourself. So often we don't five ourselves credit for all the little things we do. Keep track of them, you are accomplishing more than you think.

If you don't know where to start pick the one small thing that bothers you the most. Something annoying but doable in an afternoon. Something that is inexpensive or even free to fix if you just took the time.

There is momentum in action. Accomplishing one small thing leads to the next and the next.

What's your favorite way to tackle annoying little household chores?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Reclaiming Our Neglected Tool Shed

February's plan was to fix things around the house that were broken, replace things that needed it, and clean out the tool shed. Picking the shortest month in the year shows poor planning on my part. You know how I love before and after pictures, so here you go. It was pretty bad. This was the worst corner, but of course, I'm using it for the most dramatic effect.

It's not that there wasn't any organization, it's just that it had been about 40 years since anyone took everything out and started over. Taking everything out. That's important. Here are some other views:

Clearly, we had organized bits and pieces from time to time but this time I was on a mission for a complete overhaul and I was ruthless. Okay, and a little scared.

Here's the view that I saw anytime I opened the door to grab a can of paint or a hammer. I rarely actually went inside. I'd managed to keep most of the things I used a lot in the house or just inside this door.

I know some of you have areas of your house or outbuildings that make you feel this way. The morning I began this project I had the overwhelming urge to cry. But over the years I've learned that no matter how bad it looks you just have to start. I slowly began removing things from the shelves. I gained momentum as I went, which is why it's important just to begin.

Someone gave my husband that sign years ago with his name on it.  It's been there since my last attempt at organizing this space well over a decade ago. This was originally my father-in-law's tool shed and he spent a lot of time here. He also spent a lot of time at the hardware store and never came home empty handed, which is why you see so many things in the packages they came in. Over twenty years ago.

I'm not showing you the picture of the dead rat I found. You're welcome.  I was seriously determined to get this done once and for all. The fact that I continued after the dead rat trauma should be plenty of proof.

In addition to the dead rat, I found 10 vintage toolboxes we've inherited from several male relatives.

 Luckily, I had the back porch to use as a staging area, especially since it rained the night I took everything out. See that Phillips box? It's an unopened MP3 player. I literally have no idea.

There were piles of things everywhere. I hate piles of things.

I had a couple of pieces of unused shelving stored in the honey shed that I used to extend the workbench all the way to the wall.

Hung up the shop vac and added a shelving unit from the sporting good side of this building. My husband and I cleaned it out a couple of years ago and these shelves were empty.

I started hanging things up on the pegboard and working out a system for the things we use the most.

Summer is coming. Gonna need these extension cords to be handy.

Not too bad. Something is bugging me though...

This was a vast improvement. Look how happy all the screwdrivers look lined up!

These hammers and mallets are definitely much happier all sorted out.

In the emptying out process, I had discovered a dolly that was still in the box and I took a break to put it together when I got close to the end. My father-in-law had bought this and never put it together. The box was hidden behind other stuff.

 Do you know how many times I could have used this in the past twenty years?

But I got super excited when I saw that I could change the position of the handle and use it for a cart. It is the perfect size for moving bee hives!

Doesn't the tool shed look great? But still, for 4 days I kept thinking it wasn't quite right. It was just too dark. I decided to take everything down and paint. It was a lot of trouble, but as you can see from the photos it was totally worth it.

The paint brightened up the space which only has one window.

Still so many things purchased by my father in law, still in the packages.

For something like a tool shed, I love vintage pieces like these old gas cans.

This project that I had scheduled 3 days to complete ended up taking more like 6. But think of the time I'll save when I need something and the money not purchasing something we already have on hand.

For every item that made it back into the tool shed (we had to know what it was and how to use it) there was at least one that is headed to the recycling center, trash pile, or thrift store donation. I'd say it's a safe bet to say I reduced the contents by half.

Don't be afraid to tackle your big, dark, scary attic, basement, or shed. Schedule some uninterrupted time, wear a mask, and get started. This was completely overwhelming at the beginning, but just keep pushing forward.

Don't be deterred by dead rodents or spiders.

Who knows what treasure you'll find?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Florence, Italy

On to Florence! Beautiful Florence with its art; many fortuitous encounters awaited my owner, though she did not know this at the time.  David, Venus, the architecture, sleeping in a monastary overlooking the city, roosters crowing and dogs barking as the sun came up over one of the world's most beautiful cities. The first long bus ride with the other passengers revealed a few interesting characters. A couple of them had already made themselves known during breakfast with one of them telling My Owner "We share the same energy!" This didn't exactly thrill MO as this woman's "energy" seemed to be of the clinically insane sort.

They arrived in Florence after dark and the lumbering coach climbed a narrow road on a steep hill. The lights of the city became more sprawling with each moment.  There was a dinner at some point and I heard talk of attractive Italian men. Eventually the massive vehicle crept into a narrow space at the edge of the road, we were unloaded (and none too soon, hours and hours with smelly luggage belonging to boys is hard to stomach) and the view was stunning. I was rather viciously dragged through a strange maze of hallways with odd sets of steps in the middle, serving no apparent purpose. The room was sparse and small. This hotel it seemed was a converted monastery.

The key gets left at the desk because who wants to carry that around?

Morning brought with it a beautiful sunrise and ...how best to describe?

A wonderful surprise. The shutters opened to reveal...

Florence, in all her glory and an olive grove beneath their window.

Leaning out the window.  A dog was barking and a rooster crowing.
After breakfast a short walk was taken about the grounds to see the tree Dante sat under to write and the little garden. The outside of the building was revealed in bright spring Italian sunlight.

Off for the day in Florence....

 They started the morning with a breakfast that included blood orange juice, which My Owner was pretty sure was the best thing she had ever tasted. She and her friend couldn't get enough, and croissants with Nutella, food can really make those two happy. But food shall be covered in its own post coming up shortly.

They had a guided tour in the morning of some of the more important points of interest including The Duomo,then after a perfect lunch at an outdoor cafe, the afternoon was free for museums and shopping. Mo was amazed at just how much got done on this day. Easily one of her best days ever.

Now MO had been waiting a long time to come to Italy. Her whole life really, and she knew that probably at some point she was likely to have a little emotional flare up. (Generally not her style but sometimes it can't be helped.) She thought it would most likely be in Rome, perhaps at the Coliseum or maybe the Vatican. But for some reason wile standing in this lovely square she burst into tears. Inexplicably. Suddenly. And for apparently no reason at all. Unless of course, sheer joy counts.

The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge over the Arno River...

This bridge is a famous place for lovers. They write their names or initials on locks and attach the locks to fences and other structures on the bridge. They then throw the key into the river symbolizing their eternal love. I can't help but wonder how many of them wish to go diving for them later on.

Loggia della Signoria o dei Lanzi:Many famous statues like , The Rape of the Sabine Women, are here.

The Uffizi: My Owner will relay a story about that, here.

Galleria dell'Accademia: This is where Michelangelo's David resides alongside countless other masterpieces. 


Later in the evening walking back to the bus after dinner, a fellow traveler asked her what her favorite thing was she saw that day.

"David. I'm ruined for all other men."

Oh brother.

Literally in this city famous for housing so much of the world's great art, the art is everywhere.

This is on the street.
  Remember the woman who told MO they shared the "same energy?" Well she had told them she was a psychiatrist and had asking them all sorts of odd questions, which they might have answered if any of them could have stopped laughing long enough. In the end it turned out...she only needed one.


While in line for the Uffizi a gypsy hag approached the group of travelers and began saying something they couldn't understand but panhandling and accosting tourists is a universal language so they all just said NO! repeatedly. MO's friend somehow managed to offend the hag during this process and the woman got very angry made some weird hand gestures spit in her hand and threw a curse at her! 

     ...and museum ticket sellers with attitude.  

 After waiting to get into the Uffizi they finally made it to the ticket window and MO and the leader of their small group were rejected and told they would have to go back out to get into another line. Mo was thinking perhaps that curse outside had bounced off her friend. The woman was very rude and seemed angry with them. She called her supervisor (an attractive Italian man) over to explain to them (since they were obviously stupid Americans) WHY they couldn't enter just then, even though their friends did. He looked at MO and The Fearless Leader, the lady was chattering in Italian and they could only imagine what she might be saying about them. Suddenly he cut her off, and began to yell at her and say (some things are universally understood) "YOU WILL let them enter, you will stop being rude, and you will do it while I'm standing here." The look on her face said it all.  MO and Fearless Leader were overjoyed. They had come to Italy and a man had fought for them! This idea made them very happy because of course, they are women, and such things amuse and delight them.  


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Day in Venice

Originally published in 2009

I suppose at some point I should mention that my genius owner bought a new camera for this trip. She failed to take the time to figure out how to work the date setting and thus her photos from this trip look not only as if she was traveling in Italy but back and forth in time!

She had one real goal on her mind this day and that was to make a sign that said "Brittany's mom at the real Old Venice" since her daughter worked at a restaurant by that name. (my owner thinks she is clever and is rather easily amused). They had a tour and the sun was shining. They crossed the little bridges over the canals and snapped photo after photo, toured the Murano glass factory, and took a gondola ride where they spent as much time looking at Paolo the gondolier as they did the other "scenery".

Free time in the afternoon was spent strolling around the back streets and having a lovely lunch.

 Now my owner can be a bit...distracted and is incapable of almost any sort of multitasking. Add to that a couple of glasses of wine at lunch and it's not too hard to imagine how she lost her ticket for admission to The Doge's Palace.  She didn't realize this until they were going through the entrance and mentioned it to the group leader at the EXACT moment she was going through the turnstile causing it to lock up and negate HER admission ticket (perfect timing, as ever). Off the two of them went to buy TWO more admission tickets.

 It was worth it, however. One beautifully stunning room after another. While they were inside the palace the weather turned cold and clouds moved in.

My owner thought it would be great fun to have her picture made with some Venetian policemen. She spotted them some distance off and made up her mind to use her (much worse than she realized) limited Italian to ask them to pose for a picture. They looked less than enthused but obliged. Now the other members of her group decided that was a pretty good photo op and asked if they too could get a photo...a little less enthusiastic the second time around and by photo number 3 the commander of that little trio looked as if he wanted to arrest them except that that would only require spending MORE time with them, so he said something to his subordinates and they waved their arms and scurried away quickly cursing cameras and middle-aged American female tourists, I'm sure (okay I'm not sure because I was in the closet back at the hotel, but it's probably a pretty safe bet).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Arriving in Venice

Originally published in 2009

They'd survived and made it to Venice although they had missed the first day...Verona. It is a little- known fact that Juliette's suitcase (she was actually an old bag) wrote a fascinating memoir. It was kind of brief.  They arrived and were busy getting situated and being looked over by the other members of the tour group who had already spent a day together. They went off in search of their rooms via the smallest elevator you can imagine. More laughing, my word these people laugh a lot. I was beginning to think there was something wrong with them. Here's MO's friend with one of their travel companions.

It was a bit hard to get one's bearings in a strange place after dark. The room was small and had that uncomfortable musty smell. There was a refrigerator that they couldn't get open. Next, they tried to use the phone but when the friend picked it up there was no cord! Showers next. That resulted in water all over the floor and complaints about no water pressure, the hairdryer looked a little dicey.

My owner (who can be annoyingly optimistic) kept saying "This is fine, really. This is just like the hotels you see in old movies about traveling in Italy, it's just what I expected."

They now, for the first time began to wonder about their decision to spend so much money on this trip. Her friend said, "We could have stayed home in our comfortable beds and bought beautiful travel books about Italy!  We could have rented a hotel room at home and gone to an Italian restaurant and drank and laughed." They were exhausted not having been asleep in over a day, so this idea made them laugh. (I know, you are starting to feel sorry for me aren't you?) They couldn't breathe, one of them snorted. More hysterics ensued. Everything that had gone wrong was reviewed and the cumulative disasters were the source of no end of amusement. Finally, the friend said, "Hey, I wonder if those drapes open." My owner opened the drapes and there was a sliding glass door that opened onto a balcony! A view! They stepped out into the cold night air.

Magically in that one moment, everything about the trip changed. They stood there and breathed in the salty Adriatic air. Suddenly it was all perfection; far from home, stars, so much to look forward to.  They were hardly able to fall asleep. Middle-aged women, giddy with happiness, are generally quite entertaining.

Eventually, they did fall asleep, though they hated to, talking and giggling every so often. The next day, Venice...