Monday, August 27, 2012

Spiritual Clutter

 We are in the process of moving, and as I go through all the things we've collected for the past thirteen years (okay, it's mostly me that has been collecting), this got me to thinking. I felt so much better after getting rid of bags and bags of clutter, I wanted to do that with my heart too. I didn't just want to move, I wanted to move on.

Going through things helped me to see just how comfortable I became with clutter, even though I had to move around it to get anywhere in the house. Oh, I'm not as bad as those on those hoarding shows, but I definitely had potential of qualifying within a few years! At first I didn't want to let go of anything- especially when my husband stated he wanted to make a fresh start and not take anything. After my initial panic (or perhaps because of my initial panic) I realized I'd been holding on to too many things. 

And you know me, I never do anything half-baked. So I thought if I had to change one aspect of my life, maybe I needed to change more than my environment. I needed to change my heart.

But how on earth does someone change their heart? Habits yes, environment yes, but my heart? It wasn't really that bad, was it?

Looking into your own heart is harder than trying to toss out your cherished things. It's harder than climbing a mountain on roller skates. It's hard, because you know what's there, and it's hidden for a reason. Just like that box of stuff you stashed away 'just in case'. 'Just in case' never comes, so why would you hold on to all that junk?

It wasn't easy getting rid of things, but after the bags were out of the house, I felt like the elephant that was sitting on my shoulders like a pet bird had disappeared. The same thing needed to be applied to my heart. It will take longer to let go emotionally, but I know I'll feel better for it!

The unexpected twist of letting go is it changes you for the better. I've seen people happier after they finally forgive someone that's done them wrong, or let go of resentment of someone- even if that person isn't in their lives any longer. 

Letting go means no resentment or anger towards anyone in the past- just learning the lessons given and moving on with your life. 

Yes, I'll be taking a lot less stuff with me on the move. Yes, I'll be trying to establish better habits. But I'll also be looking into my heart and getting rid of the clutter there too. The last of the three might be the hardest, but would definitely be the most rewarding!

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's a Big, Big House!

With lots and lots of room! Come on, sing it with me!

Why am I singing this song? Because this week we found a really nice house, and bid on it. Our bid was accepted, and now we are on our way to owning our very first house!

We haven't had a chance to get our own pictures taken of it, but I wanted to show all of you via the real estate pics. Please allow me to take you on a semi-virtual tour!

First, the outside. It's sunny around most of the house, and the front is mostly in shade. There is a shared driveway (which we can't park in because it's attached to everyone elses  parking spots, but is perfect for dropping off stuff into the yard. The street is a two lane street one way, so it's quiet, shaded and has decent parking. It's about five blocks from our church!

 Windows are all over! Here you see from left to right, the enclosed porch, living room and dining room windows, as well as the second story bedrooms. Did I mention there's a third floor? And a small attic? And a basement? Did I also mention we were thrilled when we found all that out?
 The backyard needs work, but my husband likes to landscape anyhow, so now he gets to play in the backyard along with the kids. Me, I'll be in the house. You'll see why in a few more pics. ;)
 This is the porch wall we share with the neighbors. No idea why they didn't get a pic of the actual porch, but imagine all white walls with a tan stone tile floor. Now imagine me sipping iced tea and reading a book here first thing in the morning!

*UPDATE- I took some extra pictures so you could see how awesome the porch is! Yep- that's stone tile on the floors!

 The living room is a lot bigger then it looks! Everything was redone and repainted. Move-in condition indeed! Of course, this will probably be the neatest it will ever be after we move in here.
 The dining room also has carpet- good that it's nice, bad that we will have to eat over it. Can you say 'area rug' and 'carpet cleaner' boys and girls? I knew you could!
 THIS is why I won't be outside much. Let him go play with weeds- I'll be too busy using my brand-new appliances baking bread and making all kinds of goodies on that new stove top!
 This is about all the counter space we have, but there is one wall next to the new fridge that I already have ideas for- like a drop-down shelf that can fold up against the wall until I need it- er..knead it for baking bread! It also has stone tile floors and the walls are tiled and easy to clean!

 *UPDATE-This picture and the next were ones I took during inspection. I love the natural light!

Now you know where the fridge is!Our old one is going to go in the basement for storage of the big stuff, since this fridge is smaller. My husband was the one who didn't want to switch them, stating that he wanted everything to match!

The best part will be whenever we make a huge pot/bowl/tray/container of something for a get-together, we won't have to store it in here and try to find our way around it all- they'll all be stashed downstairs!

 They didn't take many pictured of the entire master bedroom, and I wondered why, since the entire house was redone. From the left to the right is the door to the hall, a double closet, and what I thought was another closet....
 But instead of a closet, it was a bathroom, complete with shower! I will NEVER get interrupted again! Our current rental home has a single bathroom (and I act like that's a hardship, and I will be so happy when I can go in peace- especially since the bedroom door can be locked. Heh.
 Tiny, but private- just the way we like it!
 This is the bedroom next to the master bedroom. This sucker is going to be my new sewing/writing space!
 And yes, folks, there is a 'public' bathroom on the second floor also. The kids can get a bath or shower to their hearts content, without mom and her small bladder having to interrupt every ten seconds. And you thought it was the kids bothering me all the time!
 I think we need to get a shower curtain....maybe.
 This entire week my son was muttering..I can't wait to have a second bathroom! The surprise is, we actually have three- okay, two and a half. The third one is in the basement, where the realators apparently forgot to take pictures.
 This is the hallway on the third floor. I was surprised it was this big!
 I expected little dinky rooms, but they were almost as large as the ones on the second floor- and a lot more sunny! Even though this one looks shady, when we went in to look, it was like a sun room- my daughter claimed this one for herself. My son was going to complain (since he is older and claimed first pick), but then...
 MOM! This room looks just like the Titanic! The wood paneling sold him on this room in a half-heartbeat. Titanic is one of his focuses, and who am I to try to talk him out of anything? Especially when they chose their rooms without an argument?
 The best part about his room is there is a little pull-down staircase that goes into the attic. He's pretending it's part of the Titanic too. The attic is barely my husband's arm span, and will be perfect for those things we use rarely. The ladder needs replacing, but is usable.

Everyone has a closet, a decent amount of privacy, and the kitties will have a blast exploring once they get used to the space. We have enough room to entertain friends and family, and we are going to be getting rid of a LOT of stuff before the move.

There are a lot of kids just two blocks away. We know this because we've been looking in this area for two years, and these kid invited ours to come play with them while we looked at houses a year ago. My kids had a blast, for their new friends were not only friendly, but respectful and kind when my son explained his Aspergers to them. Now we get to be neighbors!

Two years ago we asked God for a house. We wanted a big, big house, with lots and lots of room. A big, big kitchen to make you lots of food. A big, big yard, where people come to chat. A quiet, shady street, where many kids are at! And after two long years (and learning how to listen to Him and be patient!), He finally gave us a house!

Inspections and settlement will happen within the next two months, and we should be in before November- a perfect time to get ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas! We already know what we're thankful for, who needs gifts when you have the best house ever given to you by God?

God is good!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Have a Life 'Do-Over!'

Back in the olden days there was no restart button- it was called 'do-overs'. Made a mistake? Do-over! Didn't make the basket? Do-over! Wouldn't it be nice if we could do that in our adult lives?

Maybe we can!

Our family is looking for a house, and one subject keeps coming up as we sort through things to pack.
I want to find a place for almost everything, and get rid of a few things- like that junk drawer and the extra fondue set. My husband said he wanted to go one step further- if it were up to him, he would leave everything but the necessities, and start over. Being the borderline hoarder that I am, my heart started immediately racing- give up everything? Before I went into total hysterical mode, I had to find out what he really meant. So I asked some poignant questions:

"Do you mean our five million books?" "No", he said. "We read those."
"Do you mean your model trains?" "Nope!" He said. Which was okay by me since that is his one and only hobby. "We're going to make a display in the house."
"The kitchen gadgets?" "Maybe- it depends on what we use regularly."
I had a bad feeling about where this was going.
"My sewing stuff?" He nodded. "Yep- that should be sold, or donated."
"All of it?" I asked, incredulous. "Yep- you haven't been in your sewing room since October."
"So you want to get rid of all my stuff, but none of yours." He smiled. "My things take up one box. Yours is taking over the house." Oh sure, bring logic into it, I fumed.
He saw my dismay and decided that an explanation would avoid him sleeping on the couch that night. "If you actually used all that stuff, I wouldn't care. But you don't, you haven't, and right now, it's taking up space. Space we can use as a family in the new house."
I snorted indignantly. Use my stuff? Why would I want to use it? If I used the fabric, beads, wire and everything else, it would be gone! All that fabric would become bags, quilts, wall-hangings, purses, and all kinds of cool things I would either sell of give as gifts. I'd have all these usable items all over the house, instead of all this pretty fabric in neat little piles for me to look at! Use it? That notion was as silly as trying to teach cows to play marbles!
He kissed me on the cheek. "You really need to start looking into your life and seeing what's really important to you." he said. "All this stuff is keeping you from your true potential."
"Fine." I said, folding my arms to let him know what I thought of his unreasonable advice. "I'll think about it."

I let the conversation drop until he came to his senses. In the meantime, I went to my sewing room to take a look at my glorious pile of treasures. Which now seemed less glorious. In fact, if I compared my sewing room to jewelry, I've been wearing a heavy gold chain about my neck without realizing just how much it was weighing me down. The hoarder in me yelled "But it's really nice stuff!" and the practical side of me said, "He's right, you know. You need a serious 'do-over'."

I really hate it when my husband is right. Well, sort of right. I planned on compromising.

In the end I agreed to get rid of at least half of the sewing items. More if it was possible. 
And guess what happened when I made that statement? I felt better! 

I began thinking of the new house as a chance to establish new habits- you know how something can make you think in a certain way? Whenever I think of sitting on a couch I want to turn on the TV- even if I have a book in my hand. It's a habit I've attached to that piece of furniture. But if I put a bookcase where there was once a TV, 'd probably be reading more. So having a house do-over would let me set new patterns, and establish better ones. Especially if I get rid of unused items.
It's funny how we tend to hate change, yet change is what we need to become better people. We resist it, but we love it too. It's just a matter of looking at things with a child's eyes and say 'Do-Over!'- and then go do it. Even if we weren't moving into a new house!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Professional Bread Anyone?

Just a little back-story here, to let the excitement build...

Once upon a time I went to a deli and asked if they made their own bread, since they had a brick oven on the premises. After chatting for a bit, he offered to let me look at his cookbook. Thinking this was the 'secret diary' of baking (complete with handwritten recipes), I was ecstatic.

The next day I stopped by, he handed me a book- it was not what I expected. It was not the hand-written Tome of Bread-making Knowledge full of secret recipes handed down from someone's great grandmother. It was a professional cookbook; one that didn't have recipes, but formulas. Yes, you heard me. Formulas. This was not an ordinary cookbook.

First, this book was over five hundred pages long, and wasn't just filled with bread recipes. It had everything from fish to desserts, from fancy pastry to how to properly cook different cuts of beef. And this man let me take the book home to study it for a few days. Study was indeed the correct word. You see, this book was used for big-time culinary school students. I was holding a book I would never have held without paying a college tuition!

After reading the first few pages on bread (yes, there was no tiny pre-paragraphs before a formula/recipe in this book), I'd realized that this was no book I could learn in a few days. I couldn't copy it either, since it had about a thousand pages of text to scan. So I did the next best thing- I took the ISBN number, copied it, and returned the book to the deli guy. I would buy my own book if I could!

The good news was that the book was available to buy- for one hundred dollars. Being the savvy shopper I am, I did a little snooping. It's a good thing I did too, because I found another book by the same author that focused only on the culinary arts of bread-making. Both were on some obscure site I'd never heard of, but that wasn't the best news- both books were selling for a whopping one dollar apiece! Shipping for each was about three dollars each. I couldn't hit the 'Buy' button fast enough! A few days later I was holding two professional culinary cookbooks worth a small fortune (at least to me!) for a paltry eight dollars total.

I was in pig heaven.

I flipped through the pages slowly, savoring the diagrams of the six-fold flaky pastry, the shaping of artisan breads, and even how to make hoagie rolls and other baked goodies. But there were two small issues. One, the formulas weren't in cups and teaspoons, but pounds and grams. Despite the wonders of the internet, no one could really fathom just how much flour was in a pound (the best guess was 'about'  four cups), and this was an exact art, so I couldn't just guess. Two, there was a secret ingredient that I didn't have, that made the bread rise better and make the crust softer. It wasn't essential, but I wanted to do it right- besides, who doesn't want a softer crust and better rise?

I got back online and ordered a baker's scale and the secret ingredient (malt powder, aka diastatic malt powder). They should be here in a few days. We also went to Lancaster and bought unbleached flour and unbleached bread flour (25lbs. each), so when my goodies arrive I can start the baking process! Of course I want to see if I can measure it out in cups and teaspoons if possible, as well as break down the amounts as well- after all this is not a restaurant and I don't need twenty loaves of bread at a time! Of course, if I made it all up and froze some, it would last longer....or had a bunch of friends over for sandwiches....or donated some to a shelter...the possibilities are endless!

I'm no longer in pig heaven- I am in bakers' heaven!

I can almost smell it baking...can you?