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Monday, February 16, 2015
Let it go! Let it go! ...
No, no, stop, stop, stop! Seriously! STOP THAT! Not THAT Frozen. THIS Frozen:
A half an inch of solid ice on the street in front of our house. Perfect for skating! You can see from the tread marks in the ice that one car managed to drive by. I would probably break my neck getting down the stairs to the street though.
We can't get out the back door either.
The roses are encased in ice.
As are the trees.
Frozen tulip poplar tree.
Friday, February 13, 2015
Since my soap-making supplies arrived from Brambleberry earlier this week, I have been happily trying out soap recipes. I ordered a sample set of melt-and-pour soap bases, a sample kit of floral fragrances, three of Bramble Berry's Colorblock colors, a heart-shaped silicone mold by Wilton, and a kit for making "bee" soap which included the soap base, fragrance, and adorable bee-on-a-honeycomb mold.
I made my first batch Tuesday night using the "bee" kit. I followed the super-easy instructions that Bramble Berry included in the shipment, and I had already watched one of the online tutorials at their sister-site Soap Queen. I struggled with getting the right amount of fragrance because I didn't have a dropper, but the first batch came out really nicely. I love the bee mold - it's so cute! (Don't worry - there are pics further down.) The only problem was that I really didn't have a good place to store the soap once it was ready. I didn't have any way to wrap it up (Saran wrap, paper, etc.), or a place to stack it, since we have no linen closet. So, I put the completed soaps into a bag and put them under the sink, feeling rather dissatisfied that I didn't have a better place to store them.
Now back when I cleaned out above my refrigerator, I came across an old, but in excellent condition, Valentine's candy box. I love those heart-shaped boxes and always have trouble parting with them. I have repurposed several over the years to hold quilt projects, cards, embroidery threads, and what have you. When I saw this one, I got inspired. I had already ordered my soap supplies and heart-shaped mold. I could make some heart-shaped soaps, in different colors and scents, and place them in the Valentine's box as a Valentine's gift for my parents!
Now I usually don't give Valentine's gifts to my parents (or really to anyone other than Steve), but I STILL haven't finished their Christmas quilts (I have been sick!), and we will be visiting them Valentine's Day weekend. So I thought this would be a nice treat, and would soften the sting of "I still don't have your Christmas presents". Plus, I really wanted an excuse to make soap!
So all this week, I mixed up little batches of the different types of soap bases with different scents and colors. I made small batches, which produced three bars each time - two for them, and one for us to try here at home. Here is a batch of pink-and-green apple-rose-scented soap, cooling in the mold:
Now as luck would have it, someone sent some DELICIOUS Edible Arrangements chocolate-covered strawberries to our office, as a "thank you" for some work we did. The strawberries came in the prettiest boxes, which I quickly claimed as my own, once they were empty.
Each of the strawberries rested on a wax-coated cupcake liner. The wax coating made the liners easy to clean, so I snagged them as well.
As you may have guessed, I determined that these boxes were PERFECT for holding my bee-yootiful soap! The liners allowed the different fragrances to sit slightly away from each other in the box, like little candies.
When I finished the last batch last night, I assembled the Valentine's box for my parents ...
... and used the pretty Edible Arrangements box for our soaps! I love how they look like little frosted cakes!
Look at the adorable detail on the bee soap!
The above pics are not wonderful, as our kitchen is not really lit for taking pictures, but you can see how PRETTY both boxes are. I think my parents will love it!
As an aside, I have been using a bar of the honey-based bee soap in the bath and really like it. The scent is very light on your skin, and it makes wonderful lather. And you feel so clean afterwards. I will never buy bar soap again!
So I hope everyone out there has a Happy Valentine's Day! Even though the holiday is supposed to be dedicated to love and romance, I prefer to think of it as dedicated to eating chocolates from pretty heart-shaped boxes, which you can then repurpose to lovely effect!
Monday, February 9, 2015
The dryer is still broken, but the weather is still beautiful, so it's time again to play ... Laundry Love!! (theme music)
Look at all the pretty laundry drying in the warm sun! Even though I still (yes, STILL!) have the cold-that-won't-die, I hopped out of bed happily on Saturday morning when I saw the sun. It was such a warm, dry, and breezy day that the laundry that I hung out to dry in the morning was folded and put away by lunch time.
Saturday was also a special day as it was my Annual New Running Shoe Purchase Day. Once a year, usually in February before the start of any spring training, I splurge on a new pair of running shoes for the year. I like to get my running shoes at Nashville Running Company in East Nashville (I get my GUs there too). They are staffed with friendly and knowledgeable sales people who are runners themselves, and who never appear bemused when I tell them that I am training for this or that race, even though I don't look like I could run more than a few yards.
Last year, I was deep into my training for the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile in D.C. when I started have ankle problems, and of all things, shin splints. The folks at Nashville Running Company put me into these babies:
Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road M3
The picture above is of the pair that I just retired, which is why they look so well-loved. I actually had a hard time parting with them at the store. I got a little teary. I'm sure the saleswoman thought I was mental. But those shoes and I went through 500 miles together last year, ran in Washington, D.C. and in Savannah, GA, and had so many wonderful long runs this past summer. Nashville Running Company will recycle my used shoes for me, as they are completely worn out.
I replaced my babies with this new pair of exact the same brand and style, in a new color:
Looking at these shoes, I can already see all the Long Runs of Tomorrow - sunny Saturday afternoon runs, rainy Sunday morning runs, balmy sunset runs, moonlit evening runs with twinkling fireflies in the grass, speed work on the main street of the village, frogs on the sidewalk, deer in the woods, GUs and water and sweat, and that wonderful tiredness at the completion of the run. Sigh ...
ANYWAY, after the running store, we went to lunch. By then, I was exhausted (I AM still sick, after all), so we headed home, stopping at Rite Aid to utilize the handful of coupons that I hand brought along. We needed to stock up on cold medicine and Rite Aid-brand Mucinex, both of which I had seriously depleted over the last few days. We saved over $19, since practically everything in the store was BOGO 50% off.
We finally got home and look who was waiting for me at the top of the stairs:
Thursday, February 5, 2015
I am sick.
I am wondering if anyone would notice if I crawled under my desk and took a nap, a la George Costanza.
I am wanting to go home and sit on the sofa with my kitty Fifi on my lap, and eat Hershey's Kisses.
I am hoping that the refurbished MacBook Pro that I want to buy is still on the Apple site when I get my tax return check, which is supposed to be tomorrow!
I am already looking forward to the weekend, as the weather on Saturday calls for sunny and 60 degrees, which means, LAUNDRY DAY!
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
I am back at work today, after being sick for the last few days. Steve is still sick and at home, and since our dryer is out of commission until the replacement fuses arrive, he has generously offered to take advantage of the non-rainy weather to do a few washes to hang on the line to dry. We are both really enjoying line-drying the laundry, and have a clothesline upgrade project planned for this spring! I hung towels on the line yesterday, which froze, reminding me of the Laura Ingalls Wilder book "The Long Winter".
I also decided for funsies to participate in this online challenge at Nourishing Minimalism. The object is to get rid of 2015 things in 2015. I was already up to 200 things by the ending of January, and have posted the decluttering chart, available at the link above, on our fridge with 200 boxes checked off. Our house is still loaded with stuff, but there are starting to be some clean, empty, and clutter-free spots appearing around the house, which is immensely gratifying.
I got many compliments on my thrifted J Crew sweater today at work, but most importantly it kept me warm in my chilly office!
Sunday, February 1, 2015
I have been sick the last few days. I stayed home from work on Friday because I felt so bad, and will be home again tomorrow because I feel so bad. But Saturday, for some reason, I didn't feel so bad, so I did a couple of things around the house, and ran a few errands, which I will tell you ALL ABOUT in a moment, and consequently made myself sicker.
I am completely unable to take it easy any time I am home, even when I am sick, unless I am so out of it that I can't get out of bed. On Friday, I was running a temperature and miserable, so I sat on the sofa watching "Friends" on Netflix, sniffling and coughing, and knitting on the sleeve of a sweater than I am making. When I got bored with the sweater, I decided to take the opportunity to e-file our taxes. Yes, that is correct, I did our taxes while running a fever. Because Steve is a student, we will be get a very generous return, which we will use to get new glasses and running shoes, a laptop for Steve to use for school, and pay off a bunch of credit cards (yeah!). Once the taxes were done, I decided that since I had the laptop out, I would go ahead and place an order with Bramble Berry for my soap making supplies (I recently decided that I wanted to try my hand at making our own soap). Feeling satisfied with accomplishing so much in spite of all the dripping and moaning, I spent the evening being super-lazy.
On Saturday, Steve and Dharma went to a Girl Scout Father-Daughter bowling event. Girl Scouts paid part of the cost, and a snack was included, so it was a nice, inexpensive way for them to spend the afternoon together. I had the house all to myself, which is very rare. Even though it was partly sunny and would have been a great day to do laundry and hang it on the line, we were out of laundry detergent, so I didn't get to do laundry (waaah). I had also planned to go for a nice long run, but since I am sick, that obviously didn't happened either. Since there is no way we can afford to go to Washington, D.C. again this year for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, I was planning on doing my own anniversary 10-miler on the day of this year's race. I had planned to kick off my training this weekend, but ... sick!
Anyway, rather than taking it easy, since I have been sick, which would have been the smart thing to do, I decided to put my canning supplies that I rescued from under the sink into the cabinet above the refrigerator. I only use them about once a year, so this cabinet is a good place for them, since it is hard to get to without getting out the stepladder. When I climbed up the stepladder to get to the cabinet, I saw that the top of the fridge was really super dirty. So I pulled out that industrial-size bottle of Mr. Clean that I found under the sink and started cleaning. I finally opened the cabinet, which I don't think we have opened in years, and found some antique dishes, and old phone with missing parts, and some walkie-talkies (what? why?). I tossed the phone (since it was missing the actual part that you talk into), put the walkie-talkies into a bag to give to some friends, cleaned out the cabinet, and returned the antique dishes to it. Then, I put all my canning jars and supplies into the cabinet. I also located my Christmas cookie cutters and put them in the cabinet as well.
On top of the cabinet, I found these mid-century trays, which I cleaned up, and will hang on the wall:
and a cool wooden fish mobile, which I cleaned up and hung upstairs in the bathroom for the time being.
After the cleaning spree, I heated up some bean soup for lunch. This is the same bean soup that I made last Sunday. It has gotten yummier as the week has gone along. I also used the tortilla chip pieces in the bottom of the bag to make mini-nachos to go along with my bean soup. It was tasty, and perfect for someone who has a cold - warm and soothing.
Then, I spent a little time playing with my kitty Fifi. Bridget, another of our kitties, joined in as well. Last week, Steve did some cleaning in the attic and threw out a cat bed belonging to our kitty Allister who died a few years ago. The bed was dirty from being in the attic, and had a tear in in, but otherwise was in great shape. I pulled it out of the trash, and washed it and hung it on the line to dry. Then, I got out my sewing kit to mend the tear. Before I even finished mending it, Bridget had jumped into the bed, curled up and gone to sleep. I had to sew very carefully to avoid sticking the sleeping kitty! When Steve came downstairs, I pointed to Bridget and said, "And you were going to get rid of this!". This story doesn't really have anything to do with me playing with the kitties on Saturday, except to illustrate how cute they are!
When Dharma and Steve got home, Dharma and I loaded up the car with donations for Goodwill. I had several errands I wanted to run while we were out. First we stopped at Plato's Closet. Dharma had an LL Bean backpack that she wanted to see if they were interested in. As it turns out, they only purchase backpacks around back-to-school time. We looked around the store anyway, and Dharma found a shirt that she liked for $8.
After Plato's Closet, we went over to Goodwill, where we dropped off the donations, including the backpack. Then, we went inside to do a little shopping. I was looking for a Pyrex measuring cup to use for my soap-making adventures. Alas, I did not find one, but I did find a great pale pink J Crew pullover sweater. It was 100% cotton which is my favorite, because it doesn't get too stuffy, and all it needed was some laundering. And the best part was that it was $6. J Crew sweaters that I have seen online start around $60 and go up from there, so the pink sweater came home with me!
After Goodwill, we went across the street to JoAnn Fabrics. I wanted to get some paper for my running scrapbook. (I like to scrapbook all my running bibs along with pictures from the races and events that I do.) They were having a 40% off sale on scrapbook supplies, so I selected the paper that wanted, then headed over to the yarn. I wanted to get three skeins of 100% wool yarn to make wool balls for the dryer. (I also need a pair of pantyhose for this project, which I never buy, but I rescued a Halloween pair that Dharma was donating to Goodwill.) The yarn was not on sale, but I had FOUR 50% off one regular priced item coupons. I was able to use three of the coupons for the yarn, and I gave the last one to Dharma for a necklace that she liked. She used her own money, and learned the lesson of how there is more money left at the end of a transaction when you have a coupon.
After JoAnn, we went to J.C. Penney's. Dharma has a store credit that she got from returning some Christmas presents that didn't fit. She wanted to look for shoes to go with her spring "piano recital" dress. She has learned that when she uses her own money for clothes, I am somewhat more lenient with what styles she can purchase. They didn't really have any spring shoes in yet, but she talked me into wandering down to the juniors area. By this time, I was pretty tired and cranky. After five minutes of aimless browsing, I announced that we needed to go.
The last stop of the day was at Rite Aid. I had a fistful of coupons for body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and hair color. I was particularly jazzed about the hair color coupons. I had a $2 manufacturer's coupon, a $1 off store coupon, and another $2 rewards coupon, so I got $5 off the box of hair color. With the other coupons, I saved a total of $11.27. I also got some isopropyl alcohol ( for first-aid and soap-making purposes), a little spray bottle (to use with the alcohol for soap making), and some brown shoe polish to restore my awesome 14 year old brown shoes.
We finally made it home, and ordered a pizza (I had some coupons). Even though the pizza was more than I would have liked, Steve picked it up so we didn't pay for delivery, and I got 25 points on my deals account, which means I can get a free pizza later this month.
The day did not end on a high note though. I put my new J Crew sweater in the wash, and moved the clean wet clothes that were in the washer to the dryer. I turned the dryer on, and it said, "Click!" and nothing happened. That means that the fuse has blown AGAIN. The last time we replaced it, I was going to order some more, but I forgot, so we have no fuses. This means we have no dryer for at least a week! Of course, the weather has now changed, so I won't be able to hang clothes on the line either! I was able to go to Amazon and immediately order some more fuses, but of course it will take a week for them to get here. I also ordered some A/C filters while I was there (as I can get them in bulk and they are cheaper), and a Pyrex measuring cup, so I guess all wasn't lost.
All in all, it was a very productive Saturday. Of course, I am paying for it today, because I overdid it and now feel horrible! And probably no one cares about all the boring things that I did over the weekend, but decluttering, simplifying, and living and shopping frugally are all new and novel concepts for me!
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Hello, everyone! It's time to play What's Under Jill's Kitchen Sink?
(Theme music. Cheers and applause from the audience.)
So, some of you may remember that I was planning on cleaning out the cabinet under my kitchen sink. I know, I know, my life is wildly exciting and glamorous. Don't be jealous.
Well, I didn't get around to it the day that I mentioned it, but I decided to tackle it after dinner tonight. I can honestly say that I haven't really cleaned out from under the kitchen sink since we moved into the house 12 years ago. My husband, however, has cleaned it several times, as we have had some intermittent leaking pipe issues under there (so stop those gagging noises right now!). Still, over time, it has become a black hole filled with half-empty bottles of cleaners and insecticides, plastic bags, old flashlights, extension cords, and other things that I couldn't even remember.
Here is the BEFORE picture:
This picture doesn't do justice to the GIANT MESS THAT LIVES UNDER THE SINK. I pulled everything out into the floor, so that I could, you know, fully appreciate the mess.
Let's just take a look at some of the items that I discovered. Clockwise from the top, we have:
- two boxes of baking soda
- one box of kitchen garbage bags
- one box of yard garbage bags
- a yucky plastic bowl
- a super-old tub of plant food
- canned air
- super-old bottle of plant pesticide
- hangers for the towel warmer in the bath room
- a plastic shelf from the refrigerator that we have never used
- Swiffer Steamboost pads
- drain snake
- three almost empty bottles of insect spray
- carburetor cleaner
- a half-full, industrial-sized bottle of Mr. Clean
- some miscellaneous canning supplies
- my personal favorite - a license plate from Washington state (numbers blurred out in the pic)
- my second favorite - a PAPER bag full of PLASTIC bags
- more plastic bags
- a really rusted and gross glass shelf from the refrigerator
- a mop sponge pad for a mop we no longer own
- a 6-outlet adapter/converter thing
- three rolls shelf paper that were there when we moved in(!)
- an old t-shirt (to use as cleaning rags)
- two packages of plastic dropcloths
- liners for a Litter Genie that we no longer own
- a small bottle of camping soap that was mostly dried up
- a broken sink sprayer hose
- an empty disposable fire extinguisher
- some disgusting old rope
- a bunch of expired packages of wet wipes
- various receipts, labels, etc.
- other long-forgotten or unidentifiable things
Yes, all that was under the sink. Here, Fifi investigates the GIANT MESS.
I bagged up all the extra plastic grocery bags and took them out to the car immediately, so that we can recycle them next time we are at the grocery store.
Here are some of the things that got tossed into the trash. I made sure the fire extinguisher was fully discharged.
Not picture above in the "tossed" pile - the yucky glass refrigerator shelf. I considered donating it, but it was so rusty and gross - ick! I also recycled the plastic shelf. We've never used it, and honestly, I am not even sure how it fits in the fridge. Also, the license plate was disposed of properly according to Washington and Tennessee requirements. And I tossed all the expired wet wipes.
Only two items were selected for donation (most stuff got tossed or recycled).
I am keeping the canning stuff, but it was all quite dirty. I had to toss some of the lids and rings, but I am running all the jars, funnels, etc. through the dishwasher. I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but the woman on the box bears a strong resemblance to Amy Poehler.
Here is the freshly scrubbed cabinet. Notice how the previous home owners were kind enough to "floor" the bottom of the cabinet with vinyl flooring that matches the rest of the kitchen.
And here is the final result! I returned the garbage bags, dishwasher detergent, baking soda, Mr. Clean, Swiffer pads, cleaning rags, and a few plastic bags to the cabinet (the plastic bags are neatly contained in the P.F. Chang's bag. Yes, I know - plastic bags in paper bags - maybe that's a thing in our house). There was enough room left in the freshly cleaned cabinet that I was able to store the kitty litter, puppy pads, and cat box liners under there as well! These were previously "stored" on the other side of the kitchen, where they total blocked access to a lower cabinet.
Upon completion of this project, I dragged my family into the kitchen to admire the beauty and elegance of the new sparkling clean under-sink cabinet. They were so impressed that they
hoisted me on their shoulders and carried me around the kitchen nodded politely.
Now your turn. Have you ever experienced inordinate satisfaction from a simple decluttering project? Please share in the comments area below.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
We don't get a lot of snow in Middle Tennessee. But Friday night before I went to bed, I noticed that it was snowing very prettily outside, large fluffy flakes that were sticking to the trees and fences. When I woke up Saturday morning, I was delighted to see some remaining snow on the ground. Since snow is pretty rare around here, and it was melting fast as the day warmed up (ahead of the Zoo Run Run), I decided to take a few pictures. The eaves and branches were already dripping with sparkling drops of melting snow. It was very still out, and the remaining snow laying quietly on everything.
The branches of the rose bushes had a fluffy blanket of sparkly snow. You can tell how still it was by the amount of snow piled on such thin branches.
The bluebird box with it's cap of snow looked snug, and picturesque against the fence.
The crepe mrytles were glittering with little ice crystals.
And here comes Simon the Wonder Cat, picking his way through the snow! He went directly from the back door, around the house to the front door, so I guess he wasn't really interested in exploring the cold, wet yard.
The privet along the north side of the house looked like someone had taken one of those snow blowers that they use for Christmas trees to it.
And don't worry! Simon made it to the front porch with only slight dampening!
He nearly knocked me over going back into the house. I guess he was not as enamored of the snow as I was.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Saturday was this year's Zoo Run Run 5K at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. The whole family signed up this year to run and see the animals, and of course, support the zoo. The weather turned out great, sunny and about 50 degrees, perfect for running and seeing awesome animals.
There seemed to be a lot more people this year that when we ran two years ago. I guess the nice weather brought everyone out. I had my iPhone with me, so I could to take pictures without carrying a separate camera (like I did a couple of years ago - what a pain!).
My first "Ooo, aaahh!" was this handsome white tiger, perched atop his rock.
Not too much farther along were two mountain lions. The male was pacing and posturing, but I liked what I am thinking was the female, peeking over the rocks. Can you find her? Look for the ears!
No? Look closer. She was looking right at me. Probably thinking, "Who is that crazy lady talking kitty talk to a mountain lion? Maybe I should eat her. Sigh. I wish we could chase the runners, that would make the race so much more fun for us."
The flamingos are always a crowd favorite with their splash of tropical color against the dreary winter landscape.
And check out this shy red kangaroo, silhouetted against the setting sun.
These fuzzy pigs? boars? not sure ... were adorable.
The super-happy zoo mascot high-fived me with his hoof as I finished the race.
And here is Dharma, who finished well ahead of me and her father, enjoying the post-race eats!
If you are a runner in the Middle Tennessee area, consider signing up for the Zoo Run Run next year. The race generally starts around three in the afternoon, so you don't have to get up early, and you get to see lots of great animals, since the runners have the zoo all to themselves.