Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Devil's Playground

Sometimes when you think things are going so well, the devil pops up with a big bat to mess you up. And lately, he's been popping up in my kitchen!

This past Thursday was my husband's birthday, and I baked and cooked all day to celebrate for when he came home. I did some cleanup on Friday, but just ran out of time to finish everything!

Saturday came, and I wasn't feeling well, so my husband was stuck doing about twenty dozen cookies for a friend's wedding reception, as well and the homemade lemonade and homemade iced tea for a special punch I make for the day of the wedding. Now if you remember anything I've told you about my husband in the kitchen, you'll remember that he always makes a huge mess- I don't care of he's making himself a cup of tea- he will use every pot, pan, and utensil to get the job done.

I was too busy to notice this at this time because I was not well, and then we had to get up Sunday for church, and zip over to the church where the wedding was held to setup the cookie tables and punch. Others had baked too, so I set their cookies onto fancy trays and readied punch bowls.

After the wedding, while the bride and groom were receiving and welcoming people, my family (yes, even the kids!) were working the tables getting glasses of ice, making the punch, and doing any last minute stuff to make sure everything looked right.

People came...and came....and came! Glass after glass of punch was taken, enjoyed, and refilled, and I had just managed to keep ahead of the crowd of guests. I loved every minute of it, but I never really got to talk to anyone unless they were in line. But the punch (and our efforts) was really appreciated!

One thing I wasn't expecting was that we had to clean up afterwards. No one told us (I was just asked to setup) but apparently if you agree to setup, you agree to clean up as well. When we finally finished and had the car loaded, I just wanted to go home and relax.

This was simply not to be.

The devil took that darn bat and managed to dirty almost everything in my kitchen. Cookie trays were piled here and there, mixing bowls and other odds and ends balanced upon each other like culinary acrobats, and we had yet to empty out the car which was also filled with things that needed washing. And there was no dinner to eat either.

I found that when truly desperate, fast food can be a wonderful thing! So that's what we did. Eagerly. Because cookies and punch do not a full tummy make, especially since one has been working a cookie buffet for the past three hours.

Don't get me wrong here- I truly loved doing all that we did! We love serving people food and drink, but we had hoped to do a little mingling too. And then coming home to a kitchen that looked like the Devil took a baseball bat to, well, that can be more than a little disheartening!

The good news is, I have been chipping away (sometimes literally!) at this mess and have it almost under control. My kitchen will be clean once more by the end of the day today! At least that's what I'm hoping for- we have a dishwasher, but most of what I have to clean is either too big to fit or has to be hand washed, like my non-stick pans and bakeware. I have decided to let them air-dry so I can get some much needed sewing and writing done....

...Like this blog!

I was watching snippets from Will Smith, and he said something that really clicked with me, especially since I can get very overwhelmed concerning big projects. He said (and no, I'm not quoting) that his father came to him and his brother when they were young boys and wanted them to build a wall. They were daunted by the task, but he told them that all they had to do was build one brick at a time, and make that brick the best laid brick you could lay. It took them over a year I believe, but they did complete that wall!

My problem was I was focusing on the entire kitchen, when I should have focused on a single dish. Not even a sinkful of dishes- just do one dish at a time and you can get to where you want to be- with work. I need to write that man a letter!

My kitchen will no longer be the devil's playground- he might try to mess it up, but the next time he shows up with his bat, I plan on God helping me snap that sucker in half- and sending the devil home with it!

Hmmm....Once the kitchen is finished, I wonder what God wants me to chip at next?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Slow and Steady Wins the Race!

You might recall in March that I declared war on clutter. Honestly it was more of a fistfight, but my intentions were to declutter the house that month and never have to do so again. Hah!

I am a borderline hoarder, and what I originally thought was decluttered, wasn't. In fact, everything was still a mess! Just a neater one.

Remember the tale of the tortoise and the hare? I can tell you that I am not a hare (perhaps a little hare-brained, but definitely not the fast-paced creature in the story), but more of a plodding-along reptile that can never seem to gather any real speed when it comes to things that don't interest me- like cleaning.

Now it's the middle of August, and I'm still working. My house is not a simple one-month project like I'd originally thought. But I do have some good news!

Thanks to the help of my kids (yes, I taught them help clean too), my arch nemesis, the kitchen, has been completely transformed into something I'm happy to cook in! Straightening up simply wasn't working. The reason? There was just too much stuff to work with!

I love kitchen gadgets, and collect them on a regular basis (read: collect=hoard). Things were starting to pile up, and I was quickly running out of room in my tiny kitchen. No amount of 'neatening up' would work, and I was tired of tripping over things. My family was too.

The little bit of counter space I had was cluttered too, and things began to navigate to the stove top. Not good when you're cooking almost every day! I became tired of moving things around to cook, and I wound up shifting things to the floor- then tripping over them.

Now you see why I call myself a borderline hoarder! 'Borderline' only because I decided to do something about it before it overwhelmed the entire house and turned into the next feature on that popular cable show, Hoarding.

The first things me and the kids did was remove everything off of the kitchen floor. This was no small feat, and soon the dining room bore the clutter removed from the kitchen. This was just to see how much stuff was on the floor, and how much space I had to play with in the kitchen. I had twice the space- and that wasn't including any of the removable storage I had. That was emptied too- I was not only cleaning, I was decluttering as well. All if it made a pretty impressive pile in my dining room. One I could no longer ignore and shift around.

It took a total of three days to complete the process, but it was done at long last! The local thrift shop was bestowed with appliances I had yet to use (and probably wouldn't have used in the next ten years), and the things that I use a few times a year are now in my storage spaces, the regular use items are sitting on my shelves within eyesight, and the clutter is completely off the floor. The only things there now are my trash can, a big bag of potatoes, and a serving tray we use for snacks for the kids when we have a movie night. The floor was swept, scrubbed, and mopped until it shone. It still amazes me just how nice this kitchen that I used to hate turned out.

The clutter on the counters (that didn't go to the thrift store) were stored as well, and that left enough room to prepare a meal. Oh, I could do meal prep before, but now I had enough elbow room that I didn't knock anything over!

I celebrated by cooking a huge pot of soup- large enough so I don't have to cook for at least another day or two, just so I can finish clearing out and cleaning the rest of the first floor.

I went to bed exhausted each night, but greatly satisfied that we were finally making an impact. I never realized just how much it bothered me to come downstairs to a messy house. I smile when coming downstairs now, and not tripping over stuff feels really good!

Though things are still coming along slowly, they are coming along- at a nice steady pace. And that, my friends, really does win the race in the end!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer, Schools, and Still Sane!

Okay, so maybe not-so-sane, only because I just finished my back-to-school shopping. Egad, I think I spent as much as the government spends on solid gold back scratchers!

But I digress. Sort of.

Picking up where I last left off in my last post, The quilt is coming along nicely! I hope to get a picture in the Ruby for Women blog, and possibly more in the issue itself. I thought there might be a little too much color in this quilt, but I was very pleasantly surprised!

Unfortunately, the 'almost finished' baby quilt is still in that particular phase, and will remain so until I get a few more obligations done. Then those baby UFO's (UnFinished Objects) will be dealt with and sent to someone other than their maker (insert evil chuckle here).

As for the cookies for the bride, once I told her that a 'small' group of 200 guests means at least 1000 cookies- something I had no time to bake. She gave it some thought and realized that some of her guests were diabetic. She also has a few more baking volunteers, so we will only be doing one large batch of monster cookies (about 20 dozen). She decided that there will be cracker and cheese trays for those who can't have sugar. Whew!

Summer has been zipping by faster than a woman driving to a 90% off sale, and I had to kick those messy gnomes out of my house. With a group effort (me and the kids, not the gnomes), we managed to get part of the house looking decent- just don't walk past the dining room. The kitchen was invaded by gnome ninjas during their weapons drill, and I'm still trying to clean up the mess. Darn gnomes!

Of course, as you all know when you houseclean and declutter, the moment you finish, you get inundated with more stuff. Like school supplies. Mountains of them. And guess who has to pay for it? Certainly not the ninja gnomes in my kitchen!

It still surprises me every year just how much these supplies cost. Some of the things on the list seem silly to me, like a calculator- and not just any calculator- a certain brand and model! Why aren't they learning to do math in their heads like we did? And why do they have this thing called 'the new math'? Wasn't the old math good enough? When my child needed help with math last year, I told him to call his teacher- I think she was the only adult that understood the darn stuff!

I can't imagine what will happen in sixth grade- some of the stuff he was learning last year were subjects I didn't get until high school! Like algebra, for instance. What fifth grader can use algebra over the summer? Unless he was trying to calculate just how many gallons of water filled the public pool, I just don't see the logic in it. But maybe that's just me.

And they say it's the kids who have homework. Hah!

In the meantime, I'll spend my time sewing, cleaning, and swimming with my kids in the public pool (after he calculates the water used) until summer ends and the homework begins. Maybe if I still have the ninja gnomes, I can get rid of them by making them help with homework! I can see the note to his teacher now...

Dear Teacher,
If there are any errors in my son's homework, it is because the ninja gnomes simply didn't commit to the task and ran screaming from the house. Please excuse my son from homework for the rest of his life, to spare his parents from going to the loony bin in purple polka dot straitjackets, mumbling gibberish about algebra and the new math.

Sincerely Yours,
A Desperate Parent

Yes...I think that would work! Don't you?

Now I have to go sort all these supplies out before the kids get their mitts on them. Have a blessed day and enjoy the rest of the summer while you can!