Saturday, February 21, 2009

Life Interrupted

A virus is certainly an inconvenient interruption to daily life. Around here we have been fighting both the virtual and real-world variety. I have been bogged down with a bad cold that has left me with no energy and frequent sinus headaches to boot. I thought I had it kicked, but I woke up Friday morning with sore throat and light-headedness. Hopefully, I really am on the mend since I'm approaching the two week mark now. Peppermint tea and clementines are a panacea, right?

February sunshine helps, too. It's a definite bonus to get home in time to enjoy a little bit streaming in from the west-facing windows. Mostly I come home from work and curl up somewhere to read. Not a lot of cooking or homemaking has been going on. Since Lent is rapidly approaching, we've been enjoying plenty of quick and easy, cheesy dinners, and I doubt James has minded when my lack of desire to cook has led to the chance for take-out of the meaty variety for him. Easy comfort food has been the order of the day. Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a perennial favorite. I don't generally buy a lot of prepared foods, but I like to have a few in the the cupboard for dinner "emergencies." We both love the tomato soup from Trader Joe's. I think it's organic creamy tomato. I add a little basil and fresh ground pepper and call it a night.

Aside from the cold I've been fighting, our computer also succumbed to a bug. James bought new anti-virus software and wiped the hard drive. Twice. But all seems to be well now. Plus the computer is a little faster thanks to the clean-up. Now if I could just say the same about myself, we'd be in good shape.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Paring Down, Stocking Up

My parents are planning to buy a condo and are getting their current home ready to sell. It is a fairly large house with a lot of storage space, and they have lived there for 18 and a half years. In that time they have, as might be expected, accumulated a lot of stuff. Since the beginning of this year, they have been sorting through their many belongings and paring them down. One of the basic tenets of house-staging is to remove as much stuff as possible to make the house seem visibly more spacious. Naturally, they will also benefit from the clearing out when they move into their much smaller new space.

When they first mentioned this project to me, my dad told me that he had called someone to get an estimate on hauling off a lot of things they no longer needed. As I recall, the estimate was $800, which included disposal fees for a bunch of working but outdated computer and AV equipment. My immediate response was, "Dad, have you heard of Freecycle?" And I proceeded to tell him about it. The particular assortment of stuff my parents were trying to shed also included old Christmas trees, a punching bag, and a dead refrigerator. Dad was a bit doubtful that people would actually want this stuff, but I assured him it was desirable junk.

A week or two later, he called me to inform me that Freecycle was the "best idea ever!" He was thrilled that for very little effort, people came and hauled away the stuff he no longer needed. Even better was the fact that the people were actually pleased to get these things, would use them and not toss them. Someone even wanted the broken refrigerator. "You understand it doesn't work, right?" Dad asked. "Yeah, I just like to tinker," the guy replied. Dad was so glad this stuff would get some more use before being land-filled.

In addition to passing stuff along through Freecycle and AmVets, Mom and Dad have been getting rid of excess belongings in the time honored way of sending it home with the kids. My brother and I never leave their house empty handed. Lately when I speak to Mom she'll ask, "Do you think James would like those Legos?" or "Do you want me to save the children's books?" Often the answer has been yes. So the as the tide of stuff ebbs at their house, it is flowing into ours.

Last week I brought home these books, and I've been flying through the Nancy Drews. I can tell which were my favorites, because I can remember them clearly, whereas others I have no idea what the resolution would be when I start reading them. I'm glad to have them, and hope Mom will find some of my other childhood books. The bench upon which the books are perched and the tied quilt, by the way, ended up in our home as the result of a similar purge by the in-laws a couple of years ago. I have a feeling I'll continue to bring things home until my parents have settled into the new place and figured out how much they actually have room to keep. Now I just have to find places for all these treasures here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


My husband James and I bought a house this past summer, and we have ever so slowly been making it our own. With each change we make we feel a little more content. It begins to feel more and more comfortable and homey, a place where we can relax. But there is that bit of tension between the desire to sink in and revel in a place that is ours, to be still and enjoy, and the niggling knowledge that there is still so much that we want to do. When we delight in the changes we have made, especially after completing a particular project, we feel proud and pleased of the mark we have made on our home. But we can't help notice the last few boxes that still sit tucked on the bookcases, waiting to be unpacked, the pictures leaning against the walls, waiting to be hung, those random items that have been stuffed out of the way, but which haven't found a permanent home.

Frequently in the evenings and on the weekends we find ourselves bustling about, tackling a new project, tying off the loose ends of previous ones. This is such a satisfying kind of busyness. Every day we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. A newly organized closet, a freshly painted room, a clock rendered useful again by being hung in a prominent place; all these things make life a little easier or a little more pleasant. This week J has been hanging curtains. We've marveled over the difference it makes in the feel of the rooms and exulted over getting rid of the torn, broken roller shades.

Often as we complete one task, the next project presents itself. When the curtains were hung, we immediately noticed how blank the walls look. After nearly six months in our home, somehow we haven't managed to hang much more on our walls than these icons. And I already have some plans in mind to adorn the plain curtain panels, including a total refashioning of the one we have hanging at an awkwardly sized window. I guess I finally need to finish getting the sewing room into workable shape. I can tell that documenting our projects with photographs will lead me to look at our home from another perspective, and will probably inspire some changes around the house in the future as well.