Thursday, December 31, 2009

An Open Letter to 2010

Dear 2010,

Cut us a break this year, okay? The two years that came before you were harsh. We promise to work hard, cuss less, and smile more.

Just play nice, okay?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jury Duty, Part Deux

Why is it that you get notified to serve for Jury Duty at the most inopportune time?

Remember when Vern got Jury Duty?

He had to report the week he was supposed to return to work after being on medical leave for three months. He was home all that time and could have gladly served and yet the minute that he notified his employer that he was released to return to work, he received a jury duty notice.

Now anyone who knows me at ALL, knows that there's almost nothing I enjoy more than the legal system. I worked in it for years and years. I've attended many trials, typed jury instructions on a portable typewriter while sitting on the floor in the hallway of a courthouse. Court TV is like crack to me and anything related to crime thrills me within an inch of my life.

I haven't gotten a jury duty notice since 1985, which coincidentally was scheduled for a week that I was supposed to be on vacation.

Imagine my shock when after almost 25 years, I get a jury duty notice. I'm scheduled to start the week before we leave for our 15 day cruise.

Any other time, I would be doing cartwheels of joy and planning what I'm going to wear. But really? A one week window before a non-refundable trip?

The jury is in - someone up there hates me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree

Oh Christmas Tree, you were so lovely while you lasted, even if you never got decorated with ornaments. Don't feel bad that you didn't wear a skirt or have a star gracing your top branches. Be happy that you actually made it into the stand and had some lights, unlike last year when you only made it as far as the living room, yet never left the box.

There's always next year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Old Dogs Need to Learn New Tricks.

This dog makes my dogs look positively stupid.

Heck, I don't dance that well.

(If it doesn't show up here for you, try this link It's worth it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This is Merely A Delay Tactic to Keep from Cleaning My Bathroom

Disclaimer: This is not my photo. I have found a lot of odd things in the bathroom, but I promise that I do not keep peanut butter sandwiches in there.

I should, in fact, be cleaning my bathroom right now. Instead, I am posting on my long neglected blog. However, I'm doing a little housekeeping all around the house, and the blog needs attention too, right?

If you have a blog, have you ever checked the keyword analysis to see what brings people to your blog? I've posted them from time to time. Some are predictable things that I post about a lot. Some are a little less predictable, but most be popular somewhere in cyberspace.

Once in a while, there's one that will make me scratch my head and wonder "what the hell?" This is one of those.

Keyword Analysis shows that someone was searching for "peanut butter toilet trouble." Of all the things that have brought someone to my blog, this is the one thing that I really don't want to know more about.

It's almost a new year, and I'm going to resolve to pay more attention to my blog next year (which hopefully also means that I will have to pay less attention to emergencies, illnesses, death, and other things I'd rather not have to pay attention to.) However, one thing I can assure you, this will absolutely be my last post on peanut butter toilet trouble.

Fitting really though, since I'm avoiding cleaning the toilet. I'd better not find any peanut butter.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Destroy the Evidence

I've had these old 4-H ribbons and trophies kicking around for over 30 years. Not once have I needed them to prove how competent I am at such endeavors as baking bread, public speaking, or cross stitch. Because of that, I'm pretty comfortable preserving them with this photo and letting them go the way of many other pieces of useless memorabilia.

The fact is that I barely remember any of the projects that I did to earn most of these awards. That's not surprising since what I do remember is that almost all of them were completed in the final days before the yearly 4-H fair - a skill that I still possess. I prefer to call it working well under pressure.

Given that I put so little effort into the projects and that they certainly don't indicate my worth or skills today, why does it sting so much that the small handful of red ribbons and the one lone white ribbon were all earned in cooking?

Or rather because of my lack of skill in cooking.

Suddenly, I feel the need for a 4-H do-over.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dear Monday

Dear Monday,

You sucked.

You promised me a trip to Michigan and then you snatched it away from me at the very last minute.

You sent your Monday gremlins to possess me and cause my head to spin like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist.

I'm leaving you for Tuesday.

Friday, October 9, 2009

It's a Date!

I have a thing for calendars. Unfortunately, I also have a thing about keeping old calendars. It seems to go hand in hand.

I mean, what if I'm going through a stack of photos and I need to find the date that we went on a certain trip? Or what if I need to recall the date of a medical treatment for a new doctor? I always have my dusty trusty old calendars.

However, the reality is that they are dust collectors and don't really provide the information that I want in an organized manner.

So today I took a few hours and created an Excel calendar that is sort of a perpetual calendar for our family events. I listed the months/days in the first column and then followed that by a general column with birthdays, anniversaries, and important dates that never change. Then I made columns for each year and recorded important information that I might want or need in the future, like vacations, important medical information, fun events that we participated in, and important job related information.

Now it's all nice and organized, and I can let go of the old calendars.

Unfortunately, what it really made me realize is how fun our life used to be and how routine it has become in the past few years. There was one year that we went on at least eight fun vacations or long weekend trips. That was followed by a year that had four trips and then just gradually decreased to almost nothing the past couple of years.

This year is coming to an end, but I'm going to have to see what we can do about that.

I'll just grab my calendar and pencil in some fun.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like


That's right. It's Christmas at our house. Or at least Christmas present wrapping time.

I've been buying a few presents here and there and, frankly, wrapping presents is one chore that I hate. I always leave it to the last minute and then rush through it.

I may not buy another present until Christmas Eve and I might be wrapping the rest of the presents into the wee morning hours of Christmas Day, but for just this one day, I'm ahead of the game.

Okay, that's all a lie.

I was only wrapping presents because the alternative was to climb Mt. Washmore and tackle the pile of laundry that has been building over the past couple of weeks.

We may not have clean underwear, but dammit, we have some pretty, sparkly presents to look at.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Sale is Over

and we survived. But just barely. I swear they get harder every time we have one. And I'd like to make the same promise as last year that it is the last one we'll ever have, but since my last promise lasted less than a year, I'm just going to say that I hope not to have another one until we decide to move from this house. Which is a long, long ways off.

We did make about $2,000, and we are going to do something fun and glamorous with it. Like fix Vern's tractor. That's us - a barrel of fun.

We did get a visit from our little friend from last year and his mother. I guess someone in the house enjoyed their purchase. This year, mom bought a feather duster.

Last year, a novelty sex toy. This year a feather duster.

I really need to figure out how to get us on their party list. I bet they don't spend their fun money on tractor repairs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Marriage May Be In Trouble

My marriage may be in trouble, and it's my own fault.

We've been preparing for a couple of weeks for the estate sale of my dad's household goods.

Today, as Vern was moving the heavy furniture out of the trailer for what seems like the 527th time, I put my marriage at risk by telling him I wanted to set up the items in showroom-like displays.

The look he gave me could have frozen fire.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

If I Find Out Who the Pig Is

Yes, that's right. Swine flu has hit our happy little home in a hard way. Vern has been sick for about 10 days. We're hoping that he's finally on the mend from it, but it has fooled us a couple of times already, so we're not counting on it yet.

And we are really hoping that with the huge sale of my dad's estate only days away, that he not only feels better, but that I manage to avoid catching it.

But if I find out who the pig is that my husband has been kissing, it's going to be one sorry swine.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Irony at its Finest

I'm sorry to make you endure one more post about the tragic situation that happened last night at Wal-Mart, but I'm not over it yet. It may take alcohol time therapy.

Irony has a way of sneaking up on you. In my case, it gave me a big old bitch slap.

What's so ironic you ask? My purchase at Wal-Mart on that fateful night that shall not be mentioned again was a People magazine. (Shush. It's my guilty pleasure.)

This advertisement was in that People magazine.

I SO need one of these t-shirts.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reason 672 Not to Shop at Wal-Mart

It's bad for your self-esteem.

I went out for a fun dinner with a friend tonight. We had a nice meal at a little local bar we like and decided to do a little shopping afterwards. Why not. I was all dressed up - might as well go, right?

That's where my logic went south apparently. Might as well go . . . ANYWHERE BUT WAL-MART.

I'm thinking I don't look too shabby for a quick trip into town. After all, my hair was all shiny and swingy thanks to my new Chi flat iron. I was wearing some cute jeans, a boyfriend sweater, and my super cute Rocket Dog sneaks.

After a little shopping, we check out with our purchases, have some fun chatting with the cashier, and then get ready to walk out of the store. So far, so good. A trip to Wal-Mart on a Friday night and we are leaving unscathed.

Until I see her. At first, I thought she was just a nice mom who was trying to teach her little girl a few manners about being out in public. You see, the little girl was dancing and twirling and spinning around at the end of all the registers and mom was telling her to watch out and not to do that in the store. I'm sure you get the picture - you've seen it before.

And that's when IT happened.

She called me old.

That's right. She looked at my friend and I and then at her daughter and said "If you keep up like that, those old ladies are going to run you down."

Now for sure, I'm no spring chicken at 46. But I'm not exactly withered up and hunched over either. In fact, most people can hardly believe I have a grown up daughter. Okay, I admit, that "most people" includes ladies who are twice my age, people trying to sell me stuff, and waitresses hoping for a good tip. But still. . .

The bitch called me OLD.

Try to contain your laughter and at least offer a little sympathy. It's the compassionate thing to do for your elders.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You've Got Mail

If you are old enough to get that reference, sit next to me (and I'm not talking about the movie with Tom Hanks.)

Remember when all it took to make you happy was to hear that little voice when you logged in declaring that you were in demand? Kept in the loop? Dare I say even popular?

How things have changed. Getting email is no longer an exciting event (okay, I'll admit, I'm still always a little excited to see that I have a bunch of new emails on the off chance that I get an email from one of my friends. Note I said off chance.

These days it's more likely that your inbox is full of junk from various places, past interests, mailing lists, and newsletters you don't know how you got signed up for in the first place.

Wonder why you haven't heard from me lately? Here's a little glimpse into my life.

My junk filled life.

In case I have to point out the obvious, that's 5037 UNREAD messages in my inbox. Unread. There are actually 7159 messages in my inbox altogether, but I've read about 2,000 of them. And then didn't delete them or deal with them in some appropriate way other than just leaving them to rot in the trash can known as my inbox.

This doesn't even count my Spam folder which filters the majority of ads for Viagra, bigger boobs, and low cost mortgages. Thankfully, Mr. G-Mail takes care of these for me on his own and I don't have to even deal with it. (Reminder to self - send Mr. G-Mail a thank you for that.)

If I had a mind to, I could easily hide a clandestine affair in plain view in my inbox because Vern takes one look at it, shakes his head, and runs away screaming.

The truth of the matter is that there are only about 10-15 emails a day that I'm really interested in or that are from family or friends or related to business that I need to take care of.

I have no idea who first said it, but clutter is nothing but delayed decisions. Even virtual clutter like email clutter. There are newsletters that I'm not interested in any longer but haven't taken the time to unsubscribe. There are letters from friends that I need to answer but I either didn't have the words or I put it off until I had more time. There are coupons and sales that I thought I might take advantage of but didn't.

I'm going in. I'm unsubscribing from newsletters I don't enjoy. I'm answering those emails to friends. I'm deleting the coupons and sales that are way past expired. I'm putting filters on the people who do nothing but send me forwards of chain letters that threaten me with bad luck if I don't immediately send it to 15 other unsuspecting people (although considering our last year or so, those may have some validity).

If you don't hear from me, shoot me an email. I might even answer.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Will It Play in Peoria?

I was born and raised in Peoria. I started my married life there, and I had my daughter while living in Peoria. I even worked in one of those two tall buildings in the center of this photo, aptly named the Peoria Twin Towers. I went to grade school, middle school, high school, and even some college while in Peoria. I owned my first house in Peoria.

It's funny how, when driving out of Peoria for what was probably the last time yesterday, I realized just how many things in Peoria that I've never seen or done. There are restaurants that I've always said "I should eat there sometime" and stores that are unique to the area that I haven't shopped. There are community events, seasonal fairs, and even some cultural events (yes, Peoria does indeed have some culture) that I've never attended.

Just like with relationships and people, you always think "there will be time to do that or say that" but often it gets pushed to the side and you never really do it.

I don't know if I'll ever go back to the city where I was born and raised, but it has made me realize that I need to take the time to take in more of the things that are offered wherever we live. We talk a lot about where we can travel and what we can see and do, and yet there are so many things to do and places to see right under our noses that we largely ignore.

We don't plan to live in our current home, or our current town, forever. Therefore, I know that our time here is limited and that there won't always be "tomorrow" to do some of those things. I'm going to challenge myself - and you! - to make a list of 50 things to do, places to visit, or sites to see in and around your town. And then I'm going to challenge myself - and you! - to actually do them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Five Will Get You Ten

Ever heard the phrase "Five will get you ten?" Loosely, it means that you firmly believe something or that you are willing to bet on something - "Five will get you ten that it rains today since we have a picnic planned."

But I think it should mean something else. In fact, I think it should be stated as "Five will save you ten." As in, taking five minutes now will save you ten minutes later. You know - that whole stitch in time saves nine theory.

How many tasks that would take five minutes or less do you routinely put off? You walk past the dishwasher and think "I'll unload that later." Or you set a bill aside rather than just log into your bank account and schedule it for payment.

In the end, those things end up taking more time than they would have originally just because you put them off. Dishes pile up in the sink because the dishwasher is full of clean dishes to put away. That bill gets piled under other papers on your desk and you have to spend a few extra minutes looking for it a week later.

The other problem with those five minute projects is that they clutter your brain because you want to remember to do them yet they aren't important enough to put on your written list of things to do.

I challenge you to try to take care of those five minute or less projects immediately when you think of them. Empty that dishwasher right away, pay that bill that came in the mail today, fold that stack of towels laying on the dining room table, pick up all the shoes laying around the house and put them away. As you walk past something that needs to be done, ask yourself if it will take five minutes or less and if the answer is yes, then just do it.

Excuse me while I go fix the handle on my popcorn maker. It's been broken for over two years and I can't even tell you how much time I've spent moving that little piece around and trying to keep track of it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No Children Allowed

I ran across a fun little tool the other day where you can input your web site and it will give you a rating based on the content.

Mine should probably be no surprise to anyone.

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Rate My Blog

I apparently used the word "ass" a few too many times. Oddly, I also used the word "punch" one time and that helped me get my rating bumped up to NC-17.

Does this disappoint or upset me? Not a bit. Kind of like Vegas, some things should be reserved just for adults.

I'm okay with that.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Sound of Silence

I wish I could say that my absence since February has been due to some amazing vacation or being super busy with fabulous projects, but unfortunately, that's not the case.

My dad's car accident turned out to be much worse than we originally thought. His broken neck turned into three separate breaks in his vertebra, and he was placed in a halo brace to stabilize it and keep him from being paralyzed. His broken hip turned out to be nonhealing, and he never was able to walk or bear weight on it again. The scrapes on his head turned out to be a severe brain injury that caused him to hallucinate and caused severe injury induced dementia.

He spent over a month in intensive care after the accident and struggled with pneumonia in addition to all of his injuries. We were fortunate to be able to move him to a hospital and nursing facility in our area, so we were able to spend every day with him.

After another bout with pneumonia and two run-ins with MRSA, I'm sad to have to say that he passed away on July 16, 2009, never realizing where he was or what happened to him. He was, however, surrounded by our family and by the loving staff at his skilled nursing facility who became like family.

I wish there were words to say how sad we all are at his loss, but there were also many memorable moments that we were able to share with him during those months, so we will cling to those rather than the sadness.

Like the time he called me a "little shit" because I wouldn't give in to some unreasonable request.

Or the time he told me that he needed more photos of Vern in his room (despite the fact there were already more photos of Vern than anyone else).

Or the time the nurse came to shave him and told him he was a hairy man, so he quickly told her that she was a hairy woman.

I also need to spend some time searching for the son I didn't know I had since dad not only insisted I have a son, but that his name is J.P. Morgan.

He spent his final months not remembering that he was injured in a car accident and was unable to move or walk, but instead insisted he was a farmer who needed to get his crops into the ground, or, even better, a gunslinger from one of the many westerns he enjoyed so much. That's not such a bad thing, if you think about it.

So yes, the past 6 months have been incredibly hard and incredibly sad, but it will be the good times that we will try to remember rather than the sad and the laughter rather than the tears.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This Year Sucks

Despite the fact that I declared that this year would not kick my ass, it actually appears that it may do exactly that.

I haven't been updating and may update only sporadically for the next several weeks. My father was critically injured in a freakish head on accident.

He was in line at a car wash and his car suddenly took off over several curbs, through two parking lots, over a ditch, and slammed into a metal sign post. He narrowly - and very fortunately - missed two buildings and managed to avoid pedestrians and other vehicles. Witnesses said that he was airborne and traveling at over 50 mph at the time of impact. We believe that either his foot became jammed or his accelerator pedal stuck in some manner and he was not able to brake.

He's currently in the hospital. He has a broken neck, a head injury, and a broken hip. Right now, he's has no memory of the accident and he's having some problems understanding where he is and some other basic brain functions, although we have started to see some improvement. While we don't believe that his injuries are going to be iife threatening, they are most definitely going to be life altering.

Once he is more stable, he will have to be moved into a skilled nursing/rehab facility. We're hoping to be able to arrange to have him moved into a facility near us so that he is not 2 1/2 hours away since I don't have any siblings or other family.

Consider my ass officially kicked.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Whip those WIPS into Shape

What is a WIP? It's a "work in progress."

Who doesn't have at least a couple WIPS laying around? Or a couple dozen in some cases.

Whether they are unfinished craft projects or unfinished household projects, those WIPS lead to a lot of mental clutter. They create a lot of guilty feelings ("I really should finish THAT before I start THIS") and they take a lot of effort trying to keep track of them and store them.

The truth is that very often, we are over them and will never finish them. They are just sitting there mocking us.

Hobbies are a great example of that. Most people who are engaged in hobbies have moved from one to another over a period of time.

For example, I used to do a lot of counted cross stitch. But let's be real - my post transplant, over 40 eyes just don't let me enjoy it that much anymore. Why cling to those unfinished projects? I would never finish them. Beyond being physically unable to finish them, I simply wasn't interested anymore. Once I really admitted that to myself, it was easy to let those projects go. The usable patterns and supplies were either sold at a garage sale, donated, or passed on to friends.

Now is the time to pull out all those WIPS and be honest with yourself. Look at each one and ask yourself if, given a completely free, no obligation weekend, would you work on completing it? If the answer is no, then give it up without guilt. You've simply moved beyond it.

Sometimes, it might be just one or two items in a favorite hobby that has lost your interest. Let them go. Life is too short to create something that isn't pleasurable.

Sometimes it's an entire hobby that no longer holds your interest. It can be discouraging when you think about the time you spent to learn it or the money you have spent in supplies, but the reality is that that time can never be recovered and the money is already spent. Admit to yourself that you are no longer interested in quilting, macrame, or fly tieing and pass that stuff on to someone who is still interested in it and can actually make use of those things rather than just storing them.

I'm going to go through my own WIPS and reevaluate them. For those that I choose to continue on with, I am going to place them in my planner and actually schedule time to work on them.

I challenge you to only keep the hobbies and projects in your life that you truly enjoy. Even more, I challenge you to organize your WIPS and plan their completion.

If You Think Dog Hair is Hard to Keep Up With

You ought to try living in a house where every room is practically being gutted and/or remodeled.

This is what my kitchen looked like about a month ago when Vern (and our ever helpful friend Jesse) installed the canned lighting. (That's insulation from the attic for the uninitiated who have never remodeled.)

Made me wish for no lights so that I didn't have to see that mess.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Foyer - Marking This One Done.

Yeah, not much of an improvement. The foyer still says that we are under construction and that the floors, walls, and ceiling are unfinished. I can't really do much about that until it actually IS time to finish that part of the room. But what it now also says is that I've chosen a color (and trim color) for the wall, the buffet is set up for guests to place their purse or keys, and the clutter is put away. (I promised I would keep this real, and "under construction" is the reality here, so I'm working with what I've got.)

In fact, our eventual plan for this area is to have something like this instead of the buffet.
What I did to get closer to this goal is only utilize the buffet for items that will eventually go in this area. My handknits are neatly folded in the drawers of the buffet because I will eventually store them in the bench. I found a new home for all of the manuals and computer gear that we previously stored in the buffet because it will eventually need a new home anyway.

So, while it's not final, it is functional and headed in that direction. I'm considering this one "case closed."

Coming up - clearing away some emotional clutter. . .

Organized Clutter

One trap that I think a lot of people fall into is the mindset that if their stuff is "organized" then it is not clutter.

The junk drawer in my foyer buffet is a really good example of that.

Several years ago a good friend (who knows how I like to organize) gave me this handy dandy "junk drawer" organizer for my birthday. Over the years, it has accumulated quite a tidy little pile of "junk." Tidy. But junk nonetheless.

What I found when I really took the time to sort through it was the following:

  • Five pencil sharpeners, including one I purchased just last week because I couldn't find the other ones.
  • Two printer cartridges. For a printer we don't use anymore. (I'm still trying to convince Vern that the printer needs to go if we aren't using it anymore. He's determined to save it for some sort of printer emergency where our printer fails in the middle of the night and we aren't able to purchase a new printer at the 24 hour Wal-Mart. The cartridges, by the way, expired in 2006.)
  • Matchbooks and boxed matches. We don't smoke and we always use those long neck lighters.
  • A dried up glue stick. It probably dates back to when Ashley was in grade school.
  • Two flashlights that aren't bright enough to guide us to anywhere in an emergency unless it only took 10 seconds to get there.
  • Playing cards, which seems like a good idea except that we have about 15 more decks in our guest room. Not to mention, we don't allow anyone to play anything but Uno at our house. (just kidding)
  • A single die (dice? die?)
  • A lone button for heaven only knows what.
  • A part for a Spirograph game that I haven't seen for years, but I know I will find the minute I throw it away.
  • Bobby pins. I don't even know why I have bobby pins. I've never used them in my entire life.
  • Three tiny sewing kits. I have an entire room devoted to sewing. Do I really need to have three useless sewing kits in my junk drawer?
That just scratches the surface of the "organized clutter" that I found in that drawer.

So take a good look around, even at the stuff that appears to be organized and ask yourself if you really need it.

Now, someone must have a use for a single coaster, a folding lint brush that isn't sticky anymore, and a bunch of rotted rubber bands, right?

Answering a Few Comments

Jean said:

What I would like my foyer to say is, "go away, we're not home" but what it actually says is "we have dogs who shed like the beasts they are and we are too lazy to consistently vaccuum it up."

Boy do I understand that. The "go away" part and the dog part. So in your honor, I present. . .

I was even all serious about this - I printed it on cardstock and LAMINATED it. Now that's serious.

I usually keep a crappy hand written sign on my door so that people don't disturb Vern while he's sleeping, but I decided it was time to class up the joint a little. Besides, it will drive our neighbor nuts because she won't know what the "new" sign says and will have to find a reason to come over and read it.

Truth is, I keep this on my door most of the time. I don't do drop ins.


What about the things you don't want to keep, but feel guilty for tossing or donating for odd reasons? That's my problem!

Those things fall into that sentimental clutter category, especially the part about guilty sentimental value. Believe me when I say that the guilt that you feel getting rid of them is a brief and fleeting thing. The guilt that you feel every time you look at them and think about how you really don't want them is continuous until the items are gone. Pass them on and be done with the guilt. It's like ripping off a band aid.

Jean also said

But what do you do with the clutter that is not useful in any way at all, but your husband refuses to get rid of. My husband is a huge packrat. Huge. Don't get me started on the condition of my garage which stores all of my late FIL's stuff. (He was also a packrat.)

I'm going to assume you aren't ready to trade him in for a new model, so you'll have to work with what you've got!. Getting a spouse or partner on board can be hard sometimes so until you do, the best you can usually do is try to contain their stuff into certain areas so that it doesn't clutter up the rest of the house. Maybe once he sees the changes that you make through the house, he'll fall in line. It also sounds like the father-in-law's items could fall in that "sentimental" category and he's afraid to or unsure of how to part with it.

Thanks for the great comments, feedback, and questions!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Holy Cow Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

I shouldn't give away what is destined to become my "secret family recipe" cake that I serve to all guests from now until eternity. I also shouldn't spill the beans that this cake is not only low fat, but also really Weight Watchers friendly.

But you are catching me in a moment of luscious lemon poppy seed stupor, so I'm going to do it anyway.

Carla's Holy Cow Lemon Poppy Seed Cake


  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup low fat vanilla yogurt (I think Dannon is the best)
  • 1 cup Egg Beaters or egg substitute
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Throw it all together and mix for 3-4 minutes.

Pour into a bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted in center comes clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then top with Holy Cow Lemon Glaze.

Holy Cow Lemon Glaze

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Cut into 12 servings - each serving is 3 WW points, 130 calories, and 2 grams of fat.

(You can also make these into mini-muffins - it makes about 90 mini muffins; bake about 12-15 minutes; each one is less than 18 calories!!)

And pure bliss.

Oh, why is it called "Holy Cow Lemon Poppy Seed Cake?"

Because "holy cow" is what Vern said when he took the first bite.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Get Out and Stay Out

Now that the hard part of figuring out what you want to keep is done, we can move on to getting the rest of that clutter out of the house.

There are several ways to do that. The most obvious are the things that are truly trash - the instruction book for the blender you don't own anymore, the broken crayons, the newspaper clipping for the cabbage diet. You know the stuff. Into the trash it goes and don't even look back.

However, there's always that stuff that still has some useful life to it. Just not useful in YOUR life. There are several ways to deal with those things.

The first one that a lot of people think of is to have a garage sale. No one is a bigger fan of garage sales than me. I love to go to them, and I've had my fair share of very successful sales. However, the garage sale we had last fall nearly killed me. I'm not convinced that they are the best way to get rid of stuff, but if you want to pack away your unwanted stuff for a garage sale, then go for it.

Another way to get rid of unwanted stuff is to list it for sale in your local newspaper or Craigslist. I've had really good luck selling things on Craigslist, but a lot depends on how large of an area you live in. We live pretty rurally, but I seem to get a lot of takers from the Chicago area. We even sold our camper on Craigslist. Newspaper classifieds are usually pretty inexpensive or even free too, so that's a good way to sell something locally.

You might have family or friends that can make use of the items - call them up and have them come and get them right away. Your old dishes could make your 20 year old niece who is just moving out on her own really happy.

I've been using Freecycle a lot lately. If you aren't familiar with Freecycle, it's basically a way to connect with people in your area through an email list and offer items to give away. You can even ask for items. The rules vary from location to location, but if you have something to give away, it's a great way to go.

Donating to charity is an age old way to pass your items on to others that may find them more useful. Many charities may even come to pick them up. Think outside the box when it comes to charities - churches may have a list of people in need, shelters always need things, children's homes, homes for disabled adults, etc.

If you donate items to charity, make sure you document it well and know exactly what you can use as the correct value to write off. It's actually really surprising how much you can write off for household items and clothing in good condition. Much more than you can make from a garage sale. You can download a free copy of 2007 Deduction Pro here. I've been using it for my deductions and it couldn't be easier.

When I donate items, I take a photo of the items to be donated and save them to my hard drive with the place donated and the date. That way, if I am audited, I not only have the itemized list from Deduction Pro and the receipt, but I also have photos to document the donation and the condition of the items.

The most important rule of getting items out of your house is that they must go immediately. Put those garage sale items in a box and put them in the garage, attic or basement and plan a date on your calendar NOW for that garage sale. If they are going to charity, put them in your car to take them the next time you go out or call the charity and schedule a pick up right away. If you are selling the items or giving them away, list them right away so that you aren't tempted to keep them.

Now go kick that stuff to the curb and feel the weight lifted from your shoulders!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Since my last post was at least a thousand words, I thought I would just post a few photos for inspiration while you decide what you want your foyer to say about you.

These all seem pretty easy to achieve without a lot of expense, yet they are bright, clean, and welcoming.

Wouldn't you just get a good feeling walking into any of these homes?

It's a Keeper!

Since we're just starting with cleaning and organizing, it's a good time to talk about what we are going to do with all that "stuff." These are rules that you should use anytime you are working on cleaning or organizing an area, so I'll refer to them often.

"Stuff" falls into only two categories:

1. Stuff I want to keep.

2. Stuff I don't want to keep.

See how easy that is?

You either want to keep it or you don't want to keep it. It's really that simple.

Today I'm going to deal with the stuff you want to keep. Or at least the stuff you think you want to keep. You may change your mind by the end of this post!!

Pick up every single item in the area where you are working and ask yourself "Is this something I want to keep or not?"

We keep things for a lot of reasons:

1. It is useful. If an item is useful AND you are using it, then it's easy to make the decision to keep it. If you aren't using it, ask yourself why? Can it be used in that area or another area? If you can't come up with a use for it, maybe it's not as useful as you really think it is.

2. It is valuable. Value is sort of a funn
y thing and means different things to different people. If you are keeping it solely because of the value, then that may not be a good enough reason. Remember, it only has real value if you are using it (useful value) or if you are willing to part with it (financial value.) Sometimes those things that we think have financial value aren't worth as much as we think they are. They may not even deserve a spot in our home.

Do I
need to say the words "Beanie Babies" to anyone at this point?

If it has useful value, then take advantage of that and actually use it.

If it has financial value but not useful value, you may want to investigate the real value of it and cash in on it. It really doesn't hold any financial value until you get the cash out of it.

3. You love the item. That's a great reason to keep an item - and reason enough to not even give it another thought. We all need items we love in our home and if you don't have some in each area, then you may want to think about why. You should be able to look around your home and see photos or other items that you love and make you happy. I prefer to love things that don't require dusting though, but the choice is yours.

4. It has sentimental value. Here's where it gets a little sticky. It is something that belonged to your Great Aunt Gertrude so you say it has emotional value. But does it also fall into the category of being something you love?

Is the sentimental value that you place on something a positive value or a negative value? After my mom died, most of her things were passed on to me. While they all reminded me of my mom, most of them were an emotional burden. I felt like I NEEDED to care for them because they were hers. They weren't things that I really loved or that had I had any emotional attachment to other than the fact that they had once belonged to her. Once I separated those feelings out and passed those items on to someone else, I can't tell you the weight that was lifted off my shoulders. And it hasn't altered my memories of my mom at all. There have been some things that I have kept, but I have kept them because they are pleasing to me, not just because they belonged to my mom.

I should also put in a quick word about things that we keep because we feel they are "keepsakes." They aren't really all that special to you if you are willing to shove them in a box and put them in a musty basement or a dusty attic. If they are truly keepsakes, then you will find a place to honor them in your home.

My personal rule is that we each have one large box of "keepsake" items that we store neatly. Most of those things are childhood or school treasures, so we don't really add to the box much anymore, but we go through it regularly to make sure that those things are still really keepsakes in our heart. At the very least, determine a set amount of storage space that you are willing to devote to those things and stick with it.

Sometimes there are things we would like to preserve or keep but the items take up so much room. Trophies, awards, and school papers all fall into this category. Take pictures of those items and put them in a photo album or even frame them (how great would a photo of all of your trophies artfully arranged look?!) and then ditch the space sucking physical item itself. Kid's art and school papers are definitely fun to look back on and it's hard to decide what to keep and what to get rid of, so scan them in to preserve them. You could even reduce several pieces of artwork onto one piece of paper and just display that. There's just no need to keep the physical items when they take up so much valuable space in your home.

See. I told you it was simple. In order to keep it, you have to use it, love it, and it has to hold some sort of value to you.

Next time I'll deal with the things we don't want to keep . Hopefully, that pile is a little larger after today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Control - Task 1

My plan isn't to tackle each area all in one post or all in one day. Some days will simply be reflection about what we want an area of our home to say about us. Other tasks might be actual action tasks.

We all have busy lives - this is going to be broken down into very small bites. Most of us have lots of other stuff going on. Some areas are very large. Some require more thought. Some require action that might involve others. There's no deadline on completing any task, nor do you have to complete every task. Play along with what you want and disregard the rest.

On another note, I'm going to share some photos of our house - the good, the bad, and the ugly. And it's pretty ugly in some areas.

As you know if you have read my ramblings at all, we are currently doing a major remodel. Therefore, you are going to see some half done walls, half scraped ceilings, unfinished floors, and old wallboard. It's a work in progress. However, I've decided that I can't wait for it to be finished to make it "perfect," so I'm just going to have to work with what I've got until we are ready to move onto that part of the remodeling projects (sooner rather than later I hope as we want to have it all completed this calendar year).

When you see the pictures and the walls look like crap and the floor is unfinished and there are paint samples all over the wall, try to use your imagination. I promise to post "after" photos when they finally happen and in the meantime, I'll at least share with you what the goal is for the area.

So, let's get started then.

Probably the best start is right at the front door, so let's start with the foyer or the main entrance to your home.

The front entrance is the first glimpse that guests get of your home. Think about what you want it to tell them. You may want them to see that you are vibrant and active. Or maybe you want them to know that you are calm and serene.

Now, what does your entrance REALLY say to your guests?

Let's see what our foyer says about us.

Let's see. The floor is unfinished, as are the walls, and the ceiling. Those are on our "to do" list, so we can pass over those for right now. The floor will eventually be grouted, the walls are going to be a terracotta color, and the ceiling will have white beadboard on it. Can't really push them ahead in the plan, so we'll just have to send out the message that the house is under construction.

But what can I do something about? There are the snow boots that were left there last week when it snowed and I went out to get the mail. Those definitely need to go. We don't usually go through this door, so while I might have a spot for our guests' shoes, ours don't need to be there.

The buffet is a temporary solution using a piece of furniture we already had. Eventually, there will be a coat rack bench and mirror there so that we have a place to hang coats and store winter items. But for now, let's see what the buffet says.
Yeah, that's what I thought. It's shouting nice and loud "I'm a clutter catcher." The dogs obviously aren't wearing their collars - that's a bad thing. The notebooks and folders on top of the buffet were from some computer repairs that we recently made. We pulled out the information for the computers and didn't return them to their rightful home, probably because they don't have a rightful home.

The baskets were initially a nice decorative touch, but they also ended up being a catch-all spot. The large one has a bunch of hand knits in it. Stuff that took me hours and hours to knit. And it's wadded up in a basket at the front door. That's not the message I want to send out to guests or the value that I want to put on my time. I spent a lot of time on that stuff and I should value them a lot more.

Now I know what the foyer says about us. Other than the obvious "house under construction," it says that I'm too busy to make homes for things or to put them back in their right home (the boots and notebooks). It says that I don't value my property (the dogs don't have their Invisible Fence collars on) or my time (the hand knits wadded up in a basket).

What does your entryway say about your family? And what do you want it to say?

Think about it. Look at it with an objective eye (photos are a great way to see what others are seeing.) Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or links to your blogs. I'd love to hear and see what you are doing.

Now we know what we want to say and what we actually are saying. Next up, we'll work on getting there.

This Year Will NOT Kick My Ass

I have a lot of really good hopes for 2009. Of course, I had a lot of good hopes for 2008 too, but the Universe had other plans for us. But that was last year. This is a new year. And I am not going to let 2009 kick my ass.

The year has started out a little rocky. A good friend of ours was seriously injured by electrocution. We canceled our much anticipated January vacation to Phoenix, and just last night, Vern sprained his ankle.

Did I mention that I'm not going to let this year kick my ass?

Therefore, I'm taking control of this year in the only way I know how to.

I'm going to organize it.

In times of stress, some people pray. Some people fall into drugs or alcohol. Some people obsessively exercise or compulsively overeat.

I organize. It's the only way I can gain a little bit of control over uncontrollable situations.

I'm staring a year long organizational project with new ideas and new challenges every few days, weekly at the most. If you want to play along with me and gain a little bit of control over your life or home, follow along with me.

I welcome any suggestions or questions - I can't promise I can fix your problems, but I can help you put them in nice, neat little piles so they are easier to step over.