Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chaos Can Be Redeeming

This is what our living room looked like a couple weeks ago. There was much sorting and boxing and throwing away. The carpets were cleaned and closets organized. I worked my ass off on that front yard.

Now it is done, the sign is in the yard, papers are signed, and I am checking my email every hour for news from our real estate agent. It's been over a week and we've only had one person call, no showings yet. I am trying to keep a positive attitude while I pick up every stray sock or toy and mop the kitchen floor ten times a day.

Now that it's done and clean, I just have to maintain it all, which is not bad (so far, anyhow). Come evening, after the kid is in bed, I find myself fully justified in plopping down on the couch with a homemade latte and a pile of knitting. I did not get the sweater or the dress I had planned as Easter gifts completed, but I did manage to make a couple Bunny Nuggets (one for P and one for her friend). I have so many projects that are almost done. I am forcing myself to complete all the tedious finishing work - picking up stitches for button bands, sewing seams, blocking and straightening.

Did I tell you I set myself a knitting goal for 2011? I told myself I was going to finish two projects per month. So far January is the only month where I actually managed to do that (another Milo for a little friend and a hat for my grandma). Hopefully I can complete all my works-in-progress and make May a real show-stopper.

Friday, April 08, 2011

While people in my home state wait anxiously for spring, we are in near-summer here. It's 80 AGAIN today, and I am irritated. Partly because warm weather brings out the hordes of asshole teenagers in my neighborhood, but also because I want my seasons. I don't like to skip. I don't want to go straight from 35 to 85, which is exactly what happens down here, and every year I forget and every year I get annoyed.

I would happily swap my northern comrades; I could use a few more days of cold and moisture. My yard needs it, my handknits crave it, and more than that, my soul needs it.

There is an ease and a joy to warm days after cold ones; a feeling of renewal and promise that is lacking in warmer climates. After so many dark days, the tiniest sunbeam brings a smile. 55 degrees is now shorts-and-no-coat weather, even though in September 55 degrees made you break out the parka. The air is fresher, washed clean with chilly rains. When summer comes, it means fireflies, lounging on porches, lemonade, slowing down to savor every warm moment. Sitting in the warm dark holding hands and enjoying the feel of your skin against the air. Flowers bloom and you have time to appreciate them before they're gone.   The warm days are so fleeting, so welcome, that you want to suck every drop of fun out of them before winter returns.

Here - and to a lesser extent, also in California - I feel like summer is something to dread. It's not a time for open windows and running through sprinklers, it's a time when you race from one air-conditioned environment to another, because between ozone alerts and sky-high temperatures playing outside means health risks. Southern summer means you damn well better get up and be at the park by 9:00 am, or you're going to pass out on the monkey bars by noon. It means you swim in the morning and spend the afternoon laying on the living-room floor with a popsicle because it's too hot and still to play. Summer here lasts so long, and it's so hot and fierce, that you wonder why the first settlers to this area ever dragged themselves out here in the first place. The baked clay earth hardens and the grass dies. Everything wilts and melts. It's not a lot of fun, honestly.

I miss that transition, each day a little warmer and brighter than the last. I miss smiling as I watch the weather report and see the numbers creep just a little higher each week. I miss rush of gratitude for the return of warm days and checking each patch of grass for tiny flowers. I miss looking forward to summers, to planning treats and trips and I miss lounging on porches with my lemonade.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Busting Some Butt

We are frantically working around here, trying to get this place show-ready...oh, yesterday. The deadline I personally set for myself was April 1st, and we are long past that. Another few days of de-cluttering and picking up, I think, and then we need to have the carpets cleaned. I just cannot BELIEVE how hard it is to transform our house from the slightly-cluttered-but-livable space it is into the picture-perfect model home I have in my head. I want it to be perfect, not "good enough," and I am making myself completely nuts.

Fortunately, we have a Realtor that we trust completely, so I know that once I am done mentally and physically exhausting myself working on the place, all I have to do is keep it clean and water the grass, because he will take care of the rest. If there are buyers out there, he will find them. If we need to change something, he will tell us. If we're being unrealistic on price, he will gently talk us down. So I have that to look forward to.

It wasn't that we had a lot of hard things on our list, just lots of little, piddly, time-consuming stuff. We have no garage, no shed, and very little attic space, so anything we needed to store (bicycles, yard tools, baby stuff, off-season clothing, etc) was stacked up either in our bedroom or the office. This meant I had a towering canyon of boxes, bags, and hampers to go through. I'm probably keeping more than I should, but I just don't have the mental energy to give myself a tough-love talk for each and every box I go through. A friend who lives nearby has an extra room and he is letting us store things there, so I can at least have a little elbow room to attack the rest.

We had the house power-washed and the yard aerated & overseeded; we replaced the mailbox and painted the post. We're patching up the interior paint, taking care of spots that were left by the people before us and which we have been looking at and going "Oh, yeah, probably should fix that" for three years. I dug out last year's failed attempt at landscaping and planted nice colorful flowers instead. I still have a little work to do out there, but right now I am so busy inside I can't figure out what else to do outside.

The nice thing about all this is that I can finally justify all those home-decorating purchases I would never allow myself to indulge in normally. Plenty of bookshelves, decorative baskets, a nice laundry hamper, all the stuff I normally tell myself I can do without. And since I am going through and doing everything thoroughly and completely, it should make unpacking & setting up in our new place a snap. I've already worked out the kinks here, so when we move I'll have my perfectly-organized work space or craft storage system or quiet sanctuary of a bedroom all figured out. All I have to do is take it out of the boxes.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

5 April 2011: Self-Made Brunch

 Today I dropped the kid off at school, then realized I'd left my phone at home. I went back to get it and puttered around the house pretending to clean for a couple hours. When I got hungry, I decided to do more than just microwave some leftovers and made myself a solo brunch: extra-large hazelnut latte and a strawberry waffle. Tiny treats make a day brighter, right?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Easiest Vegetable Soup Ever.

11 March 2011: I made a pot of this for the kid, and she ate three bowls a day until it was gone.


Chop up whatever vegetables you have on hand - I used 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, and a handful of frozen green beans - and toss into a pot with 1 cup (more or less depending on how much your kids love carbs) veggie pasta. Cover with water (vegetable stock is much more tasty, if you have it), sprinkle in a little thyme and some garlic powder. Cook it all together until the pasta is done and veggies are tender but not mushy. That's it.

This only takes about 15 minutes to make, and it's become my go-to lunch for her. My favorite local health-food store sells bulk colored bowtie pasta, and it's colored with natural stuff like beet juice. It's WAY cheap, quite tasty, and she loves it. It's also become a good way to use up vegetables that are a little past their prime but not quite ready for the stock-pot.

Friday, April 01, 2011

One More Rule

I remembered one more of my "rules for packing":

5. Pack it Tightly
I don't mean make the boxes heavy, or crush things. I do mean use every single bit of space. The less room things have to shift, the less likely something's going to get broken or damaged. No space at the top of the box means when they're stacked they won't cave in and crush the contents. So when you pack your books and there's little nooks and crannies left, stuff socks and underwear in there. Put a towel or clothes on top of everything before you tape it shut. Slip paperbacks into small spaces in other boxes; top off large boxes with lightweight stuff like pillows and stuffed animals; add kitchen linens around the inside of boxes of plates and cups. Any time you can cram something into a box, do it. You'll cut down on the amount of boxes you have to move, and your stuff will be much more secure. It will also add some amusement to your unpacking process, like when you really need a cup of coffee the first morning in your new place and you have to pull four pairs of lacy Victoria's Secret underwear out of a box to get to your favorite mug.

*Boxes: A friend tipped me off to a good source for moving boxes - egg boxes. She said:

"Go to the grocery stores and ask what day the eggs come in and if you can get boxes. Go every time they get a shipment and grab as many as you can. Free and very sturdy. They even have handles and they are a good size. Note: this tip does not apply to produce boxes."