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?

Friday, February 10, 2017

I'm Updating the Travel Page!

travel map jewelry

If you have been following along, you know that January was the month of purging, cleaning out, and organizing. February is all about replacing and repairing. While most of this is taking place in the house and garden, I realized that I have a sorely neglected part of my blog that needs desperately to be updated and shown some love.

It's Travel.

Currently there is a link to an actual separate blog for travel and adventures that hasn't been updated in 3 years!

So if you'll bear with me over the next few weeks before spring and full on beekeeping and gardening, I'm going to tidy up this section and make it fun. We may have a daily post here for a while as I transition and make things easier to find. If you like travel and reading travel journals then you are going to love this pre-spring project.

Let's get started!

When I started my travel blog I thought it would be hilarious to write from the perspective of my suitcase, known affectionately in early posts as, Mr. Suitcase.

Cause I'm all original like that.

But let's start at the very beginning. I love beginnings, don't you? 

"I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum...." That line from It's a Wonderful Life is what made me fall in love with George Bailey.

Oh George, I know exactly how you feel.

Call it wanderlust or fernweh, a German word meaning "an ache for the distance".  I have an overpowering desire to go everywhere and see everything. Few things make me as happy as a packed bag by the front door, a boarding pass, a train ticket. Vintage maps and suitcases are just two of the many things that make my little southern housewife heart go pitter pat.

 I get unbelievably excited about old globes with names of places that don't exist anymore; British East Indies, Siam, The Belgian Congo...they conjure up images of travelers of long ago.  I love old movies that revolve around people heading off on adventures or have wonderful transportation scenes. Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant on a train in North by Northwest. When has a train ever been sexier than that? Two friends traveling to Italy in Enchanted April and coming alive again actually rings sort of true.

 The story of Isaak Dennison so beautifully told in Out of Africa made me desperately want a coffee farm...or Robert Redford or some combination of the two...never mind. I'm also a big fan of travel narratives written by those far more adventurous than myself. But we'll get to all that as soon as I unpack, which shouldn't take long. I travel light and believe that yes, when in Rome...

Monday, February 6, 2017

What to be Doing Right Now if You Want to Keep Bees This Year

If you have been thinking about beekeeping in your yard or garden, this is the time to get started in the Northern Hemisphere. In a few short weeks, it will be time for your bees to arrive and for you to hive them and begin your journey as a beekeeper.

First, check to see if your community has rules about beekeeping. See if there are laws pertaining to the keeping of bees in your city or state.

If you have not done so already, then you should order your equipment. Once it arrives you can assemble and paint it to get it ready for your bees to make it their new home. But before you do anything else you need to call an apiary and order your bees. Often they run out of bees and you will have to delay your new hobby for a year unless you can catch a swarm. This happened to me and I had to wait until the next year to begin beekeeping. Do not procrastinate on this step.

While you wait for your beekeeping equipment and first bees to arrive, read everything you can about keeping bees, bee behavior, and good management practices. Attend local beekeeper meetings and find a more experienced beekeeper to mentor you. Youtube videos are also a handy means of learning from other beekeepers. 

When you order your beehives it's a good time to order a few other things you'll need like a bee suit, smoker and hive tool. Ordering more things at once will save on shipping and these are three things you cannot do without.

Determine where you are going to place your hives. Bees seem to be healthier in areas of full sun. Many pests like the small hive beetle love shady beehives. Make sure the site is not prone to flooding. Facing the entrance to the hive toward the east allows the bees to catch the first rays of light and get an early start every morning.

If you are living in a crowded location with lots of buildings and people it's a good idea to have the entrance to the hive face something like a wall or fence. This is to force the bees to immediately come out and fly up high, out of the pathways of people. In my garden, they face an apple tree with low branches. You don't want your neighbors to complain about your bees before you have a chance to charm them with a jar of honey.

Bees can be kept anywhere from farms to rooftops. They'll benefit your urban garden and provide you with a fascinating hobby, increase your fruit and vegetable yield, and sweet rewards for your efforts.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Finding Home Under all This Stuff

My mother liked to move. She was one of these people who thought that happiness was something "out there" somewhere if you could just get into the right house, or own the right shoes, life would be great. Once we moved across the street in an icy  Kentucky January. I lived in 8 different places by 18. Literally, the last conversation I had with her was about her wanting me to move her again. I had moved her 9 times since I became an adult and there were a few moves she did that I didn't participate in.

My husband, on the other hand, grew up in only two houses and we live in the second one. My children have only lived in two houses and my son moved to the current one at 2 weeks old.

So while I've been purging and cleaning out our family home and doing a fair amount of complaining about how I'm the one who always has to do that, I've also been contemplating what home means. Once these drawers were emptied, for instance, I found that I wanted to store vintage poker chips and cards there. Canasta, anyone? Need binoculars for the horse track? Some of our relatives were leading fun lives.

At the moment I'm also doing The Artist's Way with a group of close friends. If you aren't familiar with it, it includes getting in touch with your inner child/artist who was probably stifled somewhere along the way. It brings up a lot of stuff. 

Like this idea of home.

I have been remembering being a kid and watching old movies. The ones where the family lives in a big drafty house with ancient pictures on the wall located in a town where everyone knows everyone. I longed for that as a kid. I fantasized about attics full of trunks and family heirlooms.  Basements with clues from the past. Hidden treasures and family secrets.

When I had children I wanted them to have that sense of home I never did. I felt like such a good parent covering them with heirloom quilts and saying "Your father used to sleep in this room when he was a boy." You know what my son always wanted to know?

"How come we never get to move?"

Really, kid?

Maybe we always want the thing we don't have.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do need an entire drawer just for vintage maps. 

Funny how the Universe has a way of waking you up one day and letting you know it's been doing its job if only you would pay attention. So in the midst of the purging, burning checks and receipts that went back decades, and making trips to the Salvation Army to drop off the things no one wanted, I happened upon some photos. Now I should probably explain that I spent an entire recent Saturday sorting through thousands of pictures. When my children were small I often caved into the request from grandparents to get 3 copies made.

I cannot begin to tell you how happy digital photography makes me.  

The farther back you go the more interesting the photos get. I even settled a mystery or two, like the name of the place in Daytona my in-laws used to go on vacation. I found two pictures of my father-in-law's football team from 1935 and 36. I found pictures of my own parents I'm not sure I've seen before.

This is how the cottage looked once I emptied the closet. This photo is about half of the actual contents. If you want to see just how far I had come up until this point, read this.

 Once it was cleaned out I had room for my Christmas items and rolls of gift wrap inside instead of outside in the shed. Who says you have to put hangers on clothes bars?

 Right down to my own closet, every kitchen cabinet, every pot, pan, and storage container had to defend its right to stay here and take up space. My big red cast iron dutch oven didn't make it. Chipped and worn, after a decade or more of steady use I donated it and replaced it with a shiny new yellow one. A gift to myself for a month of hard work.

Seriously. Yellow dutch oven. Doesn't that just sound happy? 

 Can I just say that putting black and white toile liner paper in empty drawers was on happiness par with chocolate cake? February is the month of repairs and fixes so dealing with scratches and much-needed polishing is on the way. 

black and white toille

With all the excess gone, the things worth keeping emerged. Home was here all along, under all the superfluous documents and knick knacks. Some things are worth framing, others worth mending, others worth being upcycled into something else.

 If you have been reading along for a while you might remember previous purges. I had a pretty good handle on things before we inherited everyone else's stuff. But this should be it. After this, pretty much anything cluttering up the joint is my own fault.

What's the biggest cleanout/organizing challenge you have ever taken on? How did you manage it? How did you feel afterward?