Tuesday, December 16, 2014

ad hoc Loom Knitting Stitch Markers

SO sorry to be absent!  The Advent Goblins have us hopping right now.  I can't show you what Christmas gifts we're making - too many of our recipients read this blog - but I wanted to share this little tip for those who enjoy loom knitting.

Some patterns call for a stitch marker or peg marker.  Stitch markers made for crochet are the kind needed for loom knitting, because they can be removed without damaging your work or lifting stitches off the pegs. But if you decide to start a new loom knitting project in the middle of the night, which I'm sure I've never done, and realize that the pattern you have chosen calls for a stitch/peg marker, you might not be in the mood to jump out of bed and drive half an hour to the only place in town where you can buy a stitch/peg marker in the middle of the night.  Or so I've heard.

So ransack your pantry and use a bread bag closure instead.

Bread bag #197?  Inspected by #197?  197 bread bags on the wall?  We may never know....

PS--the thing in the picture was super easy, but with impressive results.  A beginning loom knitter could tackle this.  In a few days I can show you the finished project.  In the meantime, if you want to know about the pattern, send me an email and I'll hook you up.  :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent Day 5: Flour = Cake, Sugar = Cookies

According to the Advent Goblins, today is Walt Disney's Birthday!  The Goblins had a special treat in store for us today:  they chose a Disney movie for us, "Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas", and added it to our Netflix instant watch queue.

Colossians 3:12
"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

Trust me, this verse pairs well with the movie.

The movie has three parts:  "Duck Tales," "A Very Goofy Christmas," and "The Gift of the Magi."  The only caveat I offer is that younger viewers might not get the subtly of the message in the segment about Goofy, and the confusion might mess up the magic of Christmas.  (If you want details, leave me a comment and I'll send you an email with spoilers.)

Oh, and about the cookies from yesterday:  Considering that we rolled them in sugar, they are not as sweet as I expected.  And in fact they are not as cookie-ish as I expected - more like cake, actually - which makes sense when I remember that the recipe we used was on the back of a bag of flour.  Lesson learned:  the recipe on the bag of sugar is cookie-er.

Aren't they pretty?  This was definitely worth an all-day cookie process, just for bragging rights.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Advent Day 4: C is for Cookie

That's good enough for me.

Today the Advent Goblins told us that December 4th is National Cookie Day!  Who doesn't like cookies? Nobody, that's who.

The Goblins' instructions were clear:  Bake.  Eat.  Share.  Don't get sick.

Psalm 119:103
"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"

According to my friend and colleague Betty Crocker, there are at least 14 ways to celebrate National Cookie Day.  Ella and I are using your standard American sugar cookie recipe, found on the back of practically every bag of flour and sugar sold in your standard American grocery store.  Our cookies are going to be Christmas-y swirl cookies - red, green, and white - following the instructions on a bunch of Pinterest pins, like this one.  This is not a fast cookie process.  This is an all-day waiting-for-cookies process.  I expect it will be worth it, but I won't have pictures of finished cookies until the end of the day.

Chillin', like green, white, and red sugary-sweet dietary and dental villains.

The math.

The aftermath.


Let's have a virtual cookie swap!  Post your favorite cookie recipe in the comments.  Ella and I will be happy to give each recipe a real-life taste test.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent Day 3: We're makers. So we make things.

Long story:  when Ella was 2 years old, my mother gave her a chocolate Advent calendar.  The first day I said, "We get to open a door each day and eat a piece of chocolate."  So we found Door #1, opened it, and shared that piece.  The next day I said, "Ella, let's go find the #2 chocolate."  So we found Door #2, opened it, and shared that piece.  By the third day, Ella had caught on to how this whole thing worked.  The first thing she said to me that morning was, "#2 chocolate, mama?  #2 chocolate?"  

And ever since then, Advent calendars have been known in our home as #2 chocolates.

Which brings me to Day 3, which the Advent Goblins tell is us National Make a Gift Day!   Today we will each make a gift for someone, which is handy because as many of you know, we are makers

The bible verse for the day is John 14:27

"Peace I leave you;  my peace I give you. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

The recipients of our gifts read this blog so I can't post pictures today.  We will deliver our gifts sometime in the next 10 days and after they have been received, I will show you what we made and how we made them.

What are you doing for Advent today?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent Day 2: Smell Good Ornaments

It's the second day of December and already I have decluttering withdrawals.

Today the Advent Goblins told Ella that it is National Mutt Day!  The verse they gave her was Proverbs 12:10.  "The righteous care for the needs of their animals."  The activity they gave her to with it was to make pawprint ornaments of our pets. Our only true mutt is Coal, who is still going strong at 14 years old.  <3  But in their hearts they are all mutts, ya know?

Ella wanted smell good ornaments, so cinnamon and applesauce were the ingredients of choice.  There is no science to this.  Just mix ground cinnamon and smooth applesauce until you get a dough that you can roll.  Then cut with your implements of choice.  We used canning rings to cut circles, then we chanced down and restrained our very reluctant mutts long enough to make a passable pawprint impression.  We waited to make holes for strings until after the prints were made.  We used what was left to make a few more ornaments.

When they have dried we will write each pet's name on his/her ornament and hang them on our tree.  The tray is on top of the fridge right now and my kitchen smells delicious!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Minimalist Game: Cashing in my IOU

(That’s how the members of the tribe find each other in a crowd.)

Remember how on Thanksgiving Day I neglected my decluttering duties?  I promised to make up for it today, and I have.

For this last day of The Minimalist Game, I got rid of:

  1. One dried-up glue stick in the trash. (1)
  2. One huge glass bowl that I really like, but we have two and one of them has an A etched into it, so the plain one is going out the door.  (1)
  3. Two dryer steamer balls. (2)
  4. One bottle of linen water, emptied and the bottle in recycling. (1)
  5. Three MORE canning jars. (3)
  6. Two pieces of aluminum, cut to form candy corn-shaped cornbread four years ago and not used again since. (2)
  7. One 16-quart pressure canner. (2+)
  8. One jogging stroller. (1)
  9. One regular stroller. (1)
  10. One umbrella stroller. (1)
  11. One folding thing that keeps a toddler from falling out of the bed. (1)
  12. One baby gate. (1)
  13. One high chair. (1)
  14. One baby playmat. (1)
  15. One booster seat.  (2)
  16. Two sets of decorative outdoor lights. (2)
  17. One bag of random bits and pieces of quilt batting. (6+)
  18. One bag of old ballet tights cut for sleeves. (7)
  19. One pair of skinny pants. (1)
  20. Two old computer speakers and cables. (6)
  21. Two decorative horns. (2)
  22. One laundry basket. (1)
  23. One doggy waste recycling thingy. (1)
  24. One accordion folder of bills from the year of our lord 2002 - TWO THOUSAND AND TWO! - shredded and in the recycling bin.  (1+)
  25. Two manila envelope of paystubs from 2002 - TWO THOUSAND AND TWO! -  shredded and in the recycling bin. (2+)
  26. One set of decorative tins that are really pretty but have never been used. (6)
  27. One fleece blanket. (1)
  28. Six broken resealable bags. (6)
  29. One set of decorative curtain rods. (4)
  30. One Bluetooth computer keyboard and mouse set, but I can’t decide which one.  I only know that we don’t need both.  (2)
  31. One strand of Christmas lights that was crushed under the weight off all the things.  (1)

The view from the attic hatch.

...of which today there were 70 discrete pieces plus various papers and bags.  But here's the number we've all been waiting for:

As of the end of this project I have removed more than 1868 individual items from my home.


If someone had said to me in October, "You should go thru your house and get rid of at least 1868 things," I don't even know what I would have said, but it would probably not have been something I'd be proud to repeat.  I'm glad nobody suggested it.  

This has been HARD, in ways I can barely describe, but I'm SO PROUD that I stuck with The Minimalist Game.

See, nobody could walk thru my house today and be able to tell that I've done any of this.  But I can tell.  I can tell by how much "lighter" it feels here, and how much less encumbered I feel.  The air really does feel different to me.  

I haven't made a visible difference.  But already I am living differently.  Today when I went into the attic, I had had so much practice at looking thru my possessions with a clear eye that it was almost easy to open boxes and say with confidence, "Yes, I am ready to let this go now."  That is HUGE for me.  It means I am becoming free.

If you are not ready to go a full month with The Minimalist Game, give Ella's version a try.  She decided today that she felt OK with getting rid of 5 items a day for 5 days.  It's her twist on the game rules.  Today, she went thru a box of things in her room and found these five items to get rid of:

It's a start.  <3

The Advent Goblins Are Here! plus Baked Apples

First comes the decorating of the mantel so as to be ready to receive the Advent Calendar.

Next comes the Advent Calendar, which we always make from whatever we have in the house the last day of November.  (This year that was multi-colored index cards.)  We always cut pictures and numbers out of magazines or newspapers and paste them on the pockets, and we hand the pockets in random order on a piece of yarn.

Isn't it pretty?

6 and 25 always go in the center.  6 is my birthday.  25 is someone else's birthday, but He is gracious enough to let us get all the presents.


For this first day of Advent, the goblins told us that today is National Eat a Red Apple Day!  They gave Ella a bible verse and a shiny red apple, and they told her to have me teach her to bake a Brown Sugar Cinnamon Apple.

The note that was in the pocket.

Psalm 17:8
"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings."

It was DELICIOUS.  Here's how we did it:

  • Core an apple and remove a bit of the peel around the top and bottom of the opening.  The bigger the core you take out, the more room you have for brown sugar.  :)
  • Mix some cinnamon into some brown sugar.  As much or as little cinnamon as you like.  You can use other spices too - nutmeg and/or cloves are nice.
  • Put the apple in an apple baker or any container that is oven safe.  Stuff the opening with as much brown sugar as you can - pack it in tight - and top with a pat of butter.
  • Cover the apple loosely with some foil so it doesn't burn, and bake it at 375°F until it is soft (25-35 minutes, depending on the size of the apple.)  

I love how the center thingie in the apple baker ends up looking like an apple stem.

I'll be back in a bit with my final report on The Minimalist Game.  First, I have to eat a baked apple.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

30 Minutes for 30 Days, Day 30: I DID IT!

Welcome to my 30 Minutes for 30 Days series!  If you are joining me for the first time, you can find out how this all got started HERE.  You can read all the 30 for 30 posts HERE.


30 MINUTES FOR 30 DAYS IS IN THE BOOKS!   As of the moment of writing this, I have completed 30 straight days of doing 30 minutes or more of cleaning, sorting, and organizing in the main living areas of my home.

Today being my last official 30-for-30 session, I spent it in the utility room sorting and organizing.  I would describe the result as a meaningful but undetectable dent.  :)  The main thing is that I found and gathered all the little things we need to get started with our Christmas decorating!  Things like Command Hooks and batteries for fake candles and sticky stuff to keep all the little knick-knacks in place when the cats try to knock them off the mantel.

For The Minimalist Game, today I got rid of:

  1. One manual for an item I don't even own anymore. (1)
  2. 7 number of magazines, pillaged for images to cut out, then recycled. (7)
  3. Two Halloween jack-o-lanterns in the composter. Don't judge.  (2)
  4. One camera bag. (1)
  5. Two plastic chinese take-out containers in the recycling bin. (4)
  6. Box of greeting cards. (1+)
  7. Random pieces of loose, unidentified hardware in the trash. (9)
  8. One ratty scatter rug in the trash. (1)
  9. Three packets of watermark resume paper. (3)
  10. One folder of papers shredded and in the recycling bin. (1)
  11. One bag of fabric sewn into a gifts that will go in the mail on this week. (11)
  12. One stack of fabric sewn into a gift that will be delivered this week. (3)
  13. One kitchen set added to a gift that will go in the mail this week. (2)
  14. One cute skirt that I got on impulse at the thrift store and never wore.  (1)
  15. One electric tea kettle. (1)
  16. One partial bag of marshmallows inadvertently decluttered by virtue of my trying to make a treat and instead making them into burnt offerings.  :(  (1+)
  17. One pair of women's crocs. (2)
  18. One pair of girl's outgrown Mary Janes.  :(  (2)
  19. One box of toys spirited out of the house before someone remembers they exist.  (7)
  20. One pair of panties sacrificed to the patternmaking gods. (1)
  21. One cute ceramic snowman tray. (1)
  22. One project finished for a friend, to be delivered this week. (2)
  23. Five containers of skin creams/ointments that we tried but didn't like.  (5)
  24. Five expired containers of various cortisone skin treatments. (5)
  25. Three partial packages of heartworm treatments for dogs that are no longer with us.  :(  I have been too sentimental to deal with that particular basket in the medicine cabinet.   (3+)
  26. Two expired partial flea treatments for cats that are no longer with us.  :(  Also have been too sentimental to deal with them. (2)
  27. Three partial containers of prescription pet treatments that are no longer needed but which I had saved in case we needed them in the future.  (Vets, please don't hate.  This stuff is expensive and I was afraid we wouldn't be able to afford them twice.)  (3)
  28. One container of expired insect repellent which we quit using because it doesn't work.  (DEET is the word, people.  Use it and be blessed.)  (1)
  29. One partial package of vaporizer cleaner for a vaporizer we no longer own. (1+)
  30. One package of coffee filters that not only don’t fit our coffee maker, but they have become inexplicably damaged in storage.  (1+)

I have no idea what didn’t make it into these pictures.  Definitely the stuff that is in the trash or recycling bins.  Definitely the toys.  Probably some other stuff too.  OH, and the gifts are not pictured now, but they will be once the recipients have opened them.

Still life on stovetop.

Ella doesn't like these because they are "sticky."

Feeling pretty sure that if we ever needed any of these again we'd be able to locate some for purchase.


I really miss these guys.  :(

I really miss these guys too.  :(

Happy to report that these guys are all still going strong!

The jack-o-lanterns would have wanted you to remember them like this.


...of which today there were 85+ discrete pieces.  To date I have removed more than 1798 individual items from my home.


And now the moment we've all been waiting for: the total time I spent in November cleaning, sorting, organizing, and decluttering my home:

30 minutes for 30 days:  900 minutes
3 extra minutes 3 times a week:  36 minutes
5 extra minutes 2 times a week:  40 minutes

16.26 HOURS

If someone had said to me in October, “You should spend 16.26 hours cleaning, sorting, organizing, and decluttering your home,” I’d have come up with 16.26 excuses why that was impossible.  I’m glad nobody suggested it.

PS - I still owe one more day of The Minimalist Game.  Tomorrow will be my final post about it.  In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that I will be posting about Advent every day between now and Christmas morning.  Look for some links, projects, and a special offer.  :)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

30 Minutes for 30 Days, Day 29: Eight, no wait, SIX

Welcome to my 30 Minutes for 30 Days series!  If you are joining me for the first time, you can find out how this all got started HERE.  You can read all the 30 for 30 posts HERE.


It was a pretty warm day here, so I spent my 30-for-30 session on the front porch, cleaning things and sorting things and decluttering things.  I have a dream porch in my head, which you’ll love when I win the lottery.  It will have a sky blue ceiling, and a hand-painted ceiling fan, and rocking chairs with comfy striped cushions, and a mint julep dispenser.

For The Minimalist Game, today I got rid of:

  1. One ladies blouse. (1)
  2. Two girls' blouses. (2)
  3. One girls jumper. (1)
  4. Two foil pie pans in the recycling bin. (2)
  5. Two plastic condiment bowls. (2)
  6. One dozen packets of hair conditioner. (12)
  7. One dental pick that I bought to use as a loom knitting hook but for which it turned out to be completely inadequate. (1)
  8. One child faucet cover in the shape of an octopus. (1)
  9. Two standard American rubber duckies. (2)
  10. Two tiger stripe duckies. (2)
  11. Two pirate duckies. (2)
  12. One green plastic bowl. (1)
  13. One empty bottle of dog shampoo in the recycling bin. (1)
  14. One souvenir ice cream cup. (1)
  15. One broken plastic flower pot in the recycling bin. (1)
  16. One really old soap holder that is so old, it has hardened and broke in my hand. (1)
  17. One small pile of random trash culled from the gardening cart. (10)
  18. One small pile of random compostable stuff culled from the garden cart (6)
  19. Two containers from #18, in the recycling bin after emptying contents into the composter. (2)
  20. Four PVC pipes. (4)
  21. One empty container of plant food, bag in the trash and box in the recycling bin. (1)
  22. One broken plastic hand bucket in the recycling bin. (1)
  23. One bag of planting garlic that didn't get planted in time and has dried too far to plant. (1+)
  24. One dead light bulb to go to the household recycling center. (1)
  25. One coffee can that had been a great planter until it rusted and leaked, now in the recycling bin. (1)
  26. One set of cute salt and pepper shakers, spirited out of the house before someone under the age of 12 objects. (2)
  27. One toy, received as a gift but never played with, spirited out of the house before the same someone objects. (5)
  28. One ball of yarn, converted into hats and donated. (1)
  29. Six lip balm containers that I was saving because I was totally going to scrape out the last little bits of balm and melt them all together and refill one of the containers so I wouldn't waste any.* (6)

Friends, at this point in the game, I’m just running around hoping I took pictures of everything.  I know already that I left some things out, like the condiment bowls.  If I were super conscientious, I’d dig them out of the box and carefully restage all these completely haphazardly-staged photos to include them.  I’m not that conscientious.  Don’t hate.

Blouses, jumper, duckies, octopus, cup, bowl.  Duh.

Dental pick, hair conditioner packets.

Broken flower pot.

Garden cart trash.

I remember putting the tape on the ends of these pipes, but I don't remember why I did it.  Memory suppression is a wonderful tool in the fight against clutter.

I offer no defense.

In the composter.  Seriously.  Next Spring, all this will be lovely and black and ready to feed whatever I plant.

Ball of yarn, pre-hat-ifying.
We'll come back to these in just a minute.


...of which today there were (74) discrete pieces.  To date I have removed more than (1713)  individual items from my home.


*There were originally eight lip balm containers, but after I looked inside them and saw how much was still in the bottom, I decided to give it a try.  I scooped out as much as I could, put it all in a little jar and heated it up in the microwave.  I stripped the plastic labels off a container and poured in the melted mixture.  I had so much that it filled two containers.

The last bits scraped into a jar.  Doesn't look like much.

Melted and poured.  Two "new" lip balms.  I call this flavor "Minty Cherry Bubblegum Wax."