Merry CHRISTmas

Merry Christmas to one and all.

2008 has been a year of blessings. New lives have been welcomed into the world. Tragedy revealed abundant generosity and love previously unknown. 50 years of holy matrimony was celebrated while a new marriage was begun. Blessings came in the form of ample opportunities to serve our fellow brothers and sisters, sometimes receiving blessings where none were thought to be. Reflecting back over the year, if we look and listen hard enough, many more blessings will surely become obvious.

So long ago, shepherds looked in fear to the night sky, suddenly brightened to daylight by a multitude of angels singing loud Hosanas. They listened as the angel of the Lord told them of the greatest miracle of the ages. They ran through the streets to the far side of a sleeping town to see for themselves the babe lying in a manger. And there, they were the first to see the Holiest and most wonderful of blessings God has ever given His children, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Some time later, wise men from the East also looked to the heavens, studying a star. They were compelled to follow that star until they reached what lay below. Even they knew something special was about to be revealed to them. Their search ended at the doorstep of the King of Kings.

Others even later looked and listened, afraid of what they saw and heard, denying the truth. Yet their actions became a blessing as God’s plan unfolded then and continues to unfold now.

People over the centuries have looked and listened and found Him. Some still look and listen, not knowing what it is they seek or expect to hear, not finding anything. Our hope for you in 2009 and beyond is that you look and listen and see and hear the goodness and love of our Holy Father.

Have a joyous CHRISTmas and a properous New Year!

Another Custom Job

I had a small shelf for printer and other paper, created specifically to the dimensions of the standard paper size. It was 3 shelves high with a back extending higher than the top to keep the paper from falling off the back side. It worked well, but took up table space. After surveying the scraps and leftovers in our basement, I found enough materials to create another custom shelf to fit over the printer. See picture below. My motto is, if you can build up, build up! There never seems to be enough work surface, especially when you share the room with 3 other people! The same day I made this shelf, I put up a board with hooks to hang scissors, rulers and other cutting tools up out of the way, but easily accessible. I found a good use for the other shelf. In a cabinet where I keep craft supplies, I put the "paper" shelf on the upper shelf. It now holds cards for every occasion, categorized accordingly. This freed up space in the cabinet. I call this custom job a 2-for-1. I have also included a picture of my storage units for all of the small craft items, most are labeled.

My daughter says I need to post Christmas pictures. These are years past.

A Happy Client

Pictures from a client's home. She had a space in her basement that was intended to be her space for scrapbooking. She has a counter for a workspace and cabinets for storage. Unfortunately, it is at the bottom of the basement stairs. As you can see in the before pictures, because of the proximity to the stairs, it became a catch-all. Things made it to the basement to be put away later, but later became later and later and soon it was all piled up on the counter and around the counter and on the floor.

I went to her home and spent about 15-20 minutes surveying the scene, taking measurements and discussing her needs and what was planned for the area. Her husband was in the process of building shelves at the foot of the stairs to store some of the objects that were currently piled up on the counter space. At home, I analyzed the situation and decided what needed to be done and purchased to clean-up and organize the area.

On another day, she and I went to work, sorting and purging. Objects that had a home but had not made it there were sent to it. Other objects that were no longer needed were set aside for a garage sale she had a week later. Others were donated to several non-profit resale shops we have in our county. Still others went out to the trash or recycling. After sorting and purging, we went shopping together and purchased a hardware storage container with drawers of varying sizes for some of her supplies. She already had a couple of small shelves available that we were able to put to good use. She was happy to have a space exclusively hers to spread out and scrapbook. With the completion of the shelves her husband was building, the space is no longer a catch-all. And there is leftover space for additional supplies. We spent about 2 or 3 hours total time to give her back her space.

Happy Turkey Day!

Ahhh! My favorite holiday is just about here. Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin's an endless buffet of carbs and fat and I'm ready for it! I'll be roasting the bird and baking the pies and hopefully I will be able to recruit my little helpers for everything else. There is one thing I would absolutely love: to be with the rest of our families for this holiday. That's what it's all about. Sharing a meal with the people you love and are thankful for. Then sitting around until it's time to eat some more! Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!!

Happy Day

Spring in November

An unusual November sight! We had cold weather in late September/early October. Apparently cold enough and long enough for an Azalea bloom to think the temperatures now are a signal of spring. It's the only one.

The End of the Garden

Saturday was "Fall Clean-Up Day" at the Walker household (to the right is a picture of the last of the veggie garden. Most of them went into a chili). Time to dig up the last of the garden produce, cut down the corn stalks, empty the flower containers and dump all of the organics on the compost pile. Oh well. I have to give in sometime. There was not much left that was still living anyway. It was a great year for flowers. I plan to share those pictures later when the cold, north winds sweep down from Canada to bring us ice, snow and freezing temperatures. Later, when we will be grateful for a blast of warm, summer sunshine. For now, I look to what lays ahead. The colors of the autumn leaves, fires out back roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, toasty warm fires inside, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows ( I love hot dogs over a fire!!), Thanksgiving, Christmas. As seasons change and I lament the passing, there is something about the next season to look forward to. Although I believe I could handle living in a warmer climate (how about the Eastern Carribean?), I would miss the seasonal changes. I believe God gives us the changes to keep us appreciative of the blessing that nature is. Each season is a portrait all its own. And I love great art!


A few pictures from our fun night!

What's Up?

It has been a while since I have posted anything. I have been quite busy the last couple of weeks or so. In addition to organizing, I supplement our family income by substitute teaching and occasionally working in the cafeterias of our school district. Both have been keeping me working, almost on a daily basis. The days I have not been working in our school district, I have had plenty of other things to keep me going. My younger daughter, JMW, and I spent last Saturday cleaning the house and finally decorating for Halloween/Autumn. One thing I discovered, and I am not sure why I had not used it before, is that Windex is great for cleaning the outside surfaces of the refrigerator. It now looks as good as it did when we bought it for our first home over 14 years ago! We even purged all of the refrigerator art, magnets and other "stuff" that cluttered the front of the fridge. Our calendars (one family calendar, one lunch menu calendar-extremely important!), a special frame for displaying artwork (that will be changed out periodically), magnets from businesses that we frequently call (such as the pizza shop!) and a few photos in magnet frames (I love those magnet frames!) are left to grace the fridge. It looks so much better!

One other project I undertook was building shelves for my canned goods. I canned peaches, applesauce, pickles and some preserves and jams. All I needed was a place to store all of those jars of goodies. The project took more time than I anticipated, but I ended up with plenty of shelf space and have a convenient spot at the bottom of our basement stairs to keep it. Looking at the filled jars lining the shelves is almost like looking at a work of art. The deep colors of the strawberry preserves, the bright yellow-orange of the canned peaches, the summery green of the pickles and the rest of the preserved fruits, all of those colors come together for a display that is candy for the eyes. I will post a picture sometime soon.

Before wrapping up this post today, I have to share this. This morning I woke up with this song in my head: "Jesus is a friend of mine. From now until the end of time. He is in my heart; we will never be apart. Yes, Jesus is a friend of mine." The only reason I can come up with for having that tune dancing around in my head is that maybe I needed that reminder today. I hope it doesn't mean anything for the rest of my day!

Wasting Time... something I do well. For example, I awakened rather early for a Sat. (around 6:30) and was unable to go back to sleep due to a sore throat brought on by those wonderful autumn allergies. I came downstairs intending to start a writing project that I have been mulling over in my head. My first mistake was deciding to turn on the computer instead of brainstorming on paper. I know, I know, I could just start it on the computer; it is easy enough to type up what I already have in my head and then edit later. But, since the computer was on, I thought I might as well check e-mail. And maybe I will see if my sister has updated her blog. And what about the latest news? Or how about that sale at that on-line store? Or that article I have been wanting to read? get my point. Suddenly it is a couple of hours later and I have not even come close to accomplishing what I originally intended.

Well, at least it is a Sat. and I am not obligated to be anywhere at any certain time. And it is nice to be up early on a Sat. and have some time to myself before the rest of the household awakens. But, could I have used my time more efficiently? I am certain I could have. However, I chose to let myself wander around the internet and play a couple of games. What could I have done to be more productive in that quiet time I had before the day really got started? Following is a list of things to combat time stealers.

  1. Make a priority list. Write down a list of things that must be accomplished today. Then prioritize them: what must be done first, second, etc. Then do them, crossing them off as you go. Seeing your list shrink is a great motivator.
  2. Make a list of things you want to do. Order this list according to what you expect to accomplish and when. {Regarding both of these items, unless it is something such as an appointment or work or something with a deadline (or my husband is out of socks), etc., I am not going to fret if it does not get crossed off my list that day. Some days there are just not enough hours in the day to do it all. That's why I prioritize. If the items at the bottom of the list do not get done, so be it. There is always tomorrow!}
  3. Know your limits! Keep in mind what distracts you. What pulls you away from the things you really need or want to do? What must be done to avoid temptation? When my daughters were younger, I had shorter amounts of time to do what I needed or wanted. Knowing that I would need to give them my time and attention was enough motivation to use my time efficiently. Now, the computer and the television take me away from my priorities. Limiting my t.v. time to a particular show and using a timer to limit computer time help keep me focused on my needs/wants list.
  4. Listen to your body! If I am tired, hungry or bursting with energy, I am distracted from my priorities. A little snooze, not skipping meals or eating a snack and taking a long, brisk walk keep me focused. Ignoring my body's signals leaves me irritated and lethargic and most definitely unmotivated.
  5. Allow time for fun! Nothing is a better motivator than having a good time once in a while. Plan time for a bit of fun (or at least some down time) each day. All work and no play makes for a cranky Mommy!

What works for you? Share your ideas in the comments section or feel free to e-mail me (address link is on my profile page).

A Confession

Even the organizer get disorganized!

As evidenced by the photos below, I allowed the storage area of our basement to get out of hand. I generally try to keep up, but living with 3 other people and by convincing myself that I was too busy (really unmotivated), this is what happened over the summer:

Boxes piled up, some empty, some filled with legitimately stored items, no access to the shelves. What a mess!

Well, now things have calmed down a bit in my work schedule and I took advantage of some time off from substituting in our school district. I sorted, I threw out, I decided to recycle a lot of corrugated cardboard and I purchased two small, clear, storage bins ( I will touch more on that later) and now have back a clean, easily accessible storage area:

I store all of my seasonal decorations in the colored bins. And yes, even those bins are organized on the inside! Each is labeled, and in the case of multiple bins for one holiday or season, they are very specifically labeled with their contents. For example, when I begin decorating for Christmas, I start with the outdoor lights and garland. I know exactly which bins contain the lights, another has the garland. They are also stacked in the order I will take them down. Otherwise, with as many bins as I have, I would be constantly moving bins around in order to get to the one I want.

The clear bins I purchased to replace a couple of cardboard boxes were a deliberate purchase. I have consumables in each bin. I can take a quick peek to see if anything needs to be replaced. A small one contains bows for packages; a larger one for tissue paper, gift bags, ribbon, etc.

On the lower shelves, I have a clear bin and an orange bin. Each of these (one for each daughter) contains the projects and some schoolwork that our girls have done since they first picked up a crayon or a gluestick. I have sorted through them in the past, but the next time I do so, I intend to create a scrapbook (or scrapbooks) of some of the smaller projects and take photos of some of the larger, bulkier ones. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Not counting the time I took to drive to the recycling center with the cardboard and the store for the bins, total time for this reorganization project was approximately 3.5 hours.

Blog updates

Thanks to those of you who participated in my first poll. 1 person claimed to be totally organized, all the way down to color coding socks. 3 people feel mostly organized and 1 person feels somewhat organized.

As you can see, I have added links to the blogs I am following. They are 2 of my sisters, my younger brother and my aunt. If you are offended by anything you might read on those blogs, keep in mind, I am only related to them! However, I believe you will not find anything offensive. My older sister is a knitter. I encourage those of you who like to knit to give her blog a look. She keeps busy with her projects!

An Official End to Summer (sigh)

First: Happy Birthday dear Maggie, happy birthday to you!!!

With a low in the 40s last night and an expected high around 70 degrees and Back to School Nights this past week, it's with a heavy sigh of disappointment that I bid the summer of 2008 a fond farewell. Ah, summer of 2008, how good you were and yet you leave me feeling empty. You gave me a couple of fun-filled and satisfying trips, but you left me wanting more. You came into my life in June, all hot and heavy and you abandon me now with an air of unexpected coolness. What happened? I had such high hopes for you and you have now dashed them all to the ground like so many falling leaves! Go ahead, leave me all alone and shivering as the cool winds of Autumn blow in, urging me into long pants and sweatshirts. Ohhh how I despise you now! With open arms, I must welcome Autumn in my life, not to replace you (how can your naturally warm caresses and liberal spontaneity be replaced?), but merely to take your place. Goodbye Summer of 2008. With fondness, I will always remember you!

Rain Barrel

Just a quick update on my rain barrel. I didn't have a proper seal on my "spigot" at the bottom of the barrel in time for the passing of Hurricane Hanna's leftovers last weekend. However, after running into a friend while at Lowe's, she passed on a tidbit of information from another, mutual friend. You know those commercials you see on t.v. where the guy is shouting at the camera about some amazing green putty? Well, he wasn't lying! It wasn't green putty, but blue, and it is amazing. I sealed my "spigot" and have a full rain barrel! Due to the barrel being made of plastic and the pressure of a full barrel of water on the "spigot," I was doubting it would work. But it did! Now I have a late winter project-a second barrel for the other corner on the back of the house. I'll be happy to share my plans with anyone. Even a little bit of rain will fill up a 32 gallon barrel with all of the water collected off of your roof, saving your water bill (or your groundwater if you are on a well) and your plants when summer rains dry up!

Seasonal Decorating

Most people do a bit of decorating based on the seasons. It's nice to usher in the new season with a few things that are kept in storage for most of the year. Sometimes, just a few little items can give a room a new look and feel. Soon, I will be putting away all of the bright summery decorations and bringing out the Fall and Halloween decorations.

I am one who does not really enjoy cleaning, especially dusting. My daughter will dust for me and she does do a pretty good job, but sometimes, everything needs to be cleared off the surfaces and thoroughly dusted and cleaned. The best time to do that is when I change seasonal decorations. The decorations themselves get a good cleaning before they are put back into storage and all surfaces are shined and ready for the next season. Depending on how much I have (every year it seems like I put away a little more than the year before. Somehow, end-of-season sale items end up in my shopping cart!) and how many family members help, it may take a day or two for the whole process to be completed. The rooms look and smell (citrusy) fresh as a result. It makes me feel good to have accomplished this task.

I go through this process with every season change. I know I should dust thoroughly more often (some of us have asthma and allergies), but, except for summer, it does get done about every month and a half. Below is a list of most decorating seasons. Maybe you have more holidays to add to the list. Just leave them in the comment section. I could add them to my list and dust my house more often!

  • Winter
  • Valentine's Day
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Easter/Spring
  • Summer
  • Fall/Halloween
  • Fall/Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

A couple of recent projects

This summer, I had in mind a couple of projects I wanted to complete. And I did. It took nearly the whole summer to finally bring them to fruition, but with just one full week left before school starts up again, complete them I did. Now, for the disclaimer (and without getting into my political ideology): I am not "green." There. Moving on.

We live in the woods. We have a well from which all of our water is supplied. I have always wanted to supplement our water usage by catching rain water. Those who know me, know my love of growing things. Therefore, I have quite a few plants that require water every few days, particularly if we do not get rain. A rain barrel is my solution to conserving the water table and benefitting my plants. And I love to make stuff! I have it set up right next to my vegetable garden where I can simply hook up a hose and water those plants without any extra labor (not that walking back and forth with 16 pounds of water at a go or hauling out and reeling the hose back in hurts my figure). I found several plans on-line, combined and modified them to suit my needs and budget, and voila! A well-placed cedar tree (found as a sapling on our property, carefully transplanted into a container and lovingly nurtured all summer) will grow up full and tall to shield the neighbor's view of the barrel.

The other project I tackled I had on my mind for a couple of years. It just took me awhile to actually get to it. It was not a priority, but now that it is completed, I don't know why I didn't finish it sooner! Our master bath is a very nice size. However, there are some areas that could use additional privacy. A simple screen was all that was needed to create privacy. Using 4 sheer curtain panels, 5 8' 1x1's and decorative hinges, I found the privacy I desire! I used one curtain panel on each side, folding over the botton half for maximum privacy. And, we have the privacy without sacrificing the penetration of natural and artificial light.

Some ways I have organized our garage

Most people have limited garage and basement storage space. One way to maximize the floor space available is to get as much as possible off of the floor. I am all about maximizing the amount of space I have (perhaps having grown up with 5 brothers and sisters in a small house) and having room for the things I want. In the case of the garage, space for our vehicles. We already had some shelves in the garage, but things were just being thrown on the shelves without any real rhyme or reason. The result was things were "missing" or the item one needed was on the bottom of the pile. I'm guessing that many of you know exactly what I am talking about. I'm also about using the materials I have on hand and not spending much. We had 1 x 6's that I was able to employ and for about $21 I purchased screws, hooks and brackets. The pictures below show the results. It was an easy project giving us more space and more importantly, the ability to locate what we needed quickly and easily. We always had room for our vehicles, but now I am able to walk completely around the front of my van when it is pulled in. My next garage project will be installing a pulley system to hoist the bicycles up out of the way. School starts next week, so that may be a project put on hold!

One other thing that is a good idea in a garage. Having unfinished walls can be used to your advantage. Not only do you have the studs exposed, but if you look closely in the pictures, you see that I was able to have bulky items set back further in between the studs. No bumping heads or knocking things off!

I also put items closest to where I am more likely to use them. For example, the sports equipment is right next to the garage door opening. We can just grab a ball and head to the hoop!

Garden update

Remember the zucchini bread? It's yummy.

A couple of ears of corn. I will remember to manually pollinate next year for more and bigger, ears.

Post #1

My first post and it won't be about organizing! Since it is harvest time here, I'm sharing some photos of my garden here in the woods. It's not easy finding enough sun time for all of the things I like to grow and eat, but I've been relatively successful. Last year, I tried a few tomato and pepper plants and some lettuce and spinach in containers. It went so well, I decided to dig up the best grass we had growing and put in a real garden. I haven't been too disappointed-although all of the tomato and pepper plants have not filled out and produced as they did last year. I am not alone in our area. Everyone I talk to has the same result this year. Must have been a bad batch of plants. Next year will be better. I'm going to start from seed (I did this year, but without success) sooner than I usually do and start them inside. What we have eaten has been mighty tasty! (Zucchini is to the right of the corn in the picture-mmm...chocolate zucchini bread!)

I've only grown corn once before and it never was this tall!
I'm going to make pickles out of these cucumbers!

My sad looking peppers and tomatoes-I grew in this same location last year with excellent resultsMore sad looking tomatoes and peppers.

The end of the lettuce and a couple more tomato plants. I have planted fall lettuce and spinach and hope to have better results.