MODERN DAY MARTHA

Celebrating the art of making a home
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  • It’s so hard to say goodbye

    February 3rd, 2011

    In general, I have a really hard time getting rid of things. I come firmly from the “but I might need it” and “but maybe I can use it for something” camps.  Add in a dash of sentimentality and a deeply rooted superstition that as soon as I get rid of something I will need it, and you have boxes and boxes of notes passed to me in the hall in high school. (Ok, just one box.)

    Every now and then I find myself in the perfect mood, and then woe to anything extraneous in my house, nothing is safe. (Except, perhaps, the high school notes.) But that’s far from a continuous state of affairs, and mainly keeps itself to culls of the bookshelves and Happy Meal toys.

    But when we’re moving, it’s a totally different thing. I don’t want to pack anything I don’t have to, and I definitely don’t want to find it a place in the new house. So how do I decide what to keep and what to throw? Here’s my thought process:

    1. Is it loved?

    If yes, keep it.

    If no, move on to question 2.

    2. Does it serve an important purpose?

    If the answer to this is no, I ask myself why I’m keeping it, and it always ends up being one of three things. Someone gave it to me, I might need it, or I’m keeping it for reference of some kind. But you know what? Those three reasons are kind of dumb.  Because either the person will never know I got rid of it, I can get another one if I really need it, or it’s not important reference, or it would have passed the “serving an important purpose” test. Out it goes!

    If the answer is yes, then I move to question 3.

    3. Does it serve that purpose adequately?

    If the answer is yes, then it’s a keeper. I’d like to only have things in my house that I love, but that’s not always possible. So if I really dislike it, I put it on a list to be replaced at some later time.

    If the answer is no, then out it goes, and it goes on a list to be replaced as soon as is reasonable. (These are things that serve an important purpose, right?)

    So the books that I love? Keep. The fabric that I’ve had for 2 years and don’t love but figure I might use at some point? Going to a different home. The spatula with the head that keeps falling off? Gone.

    But what about the high school notes?  I’d been considering them as a single unit, but when I went through them individually I could see that some passed this test while others didn’t at all. Some of them were hilarious and held wonderful memories. Absolutely loved. Others served the purpose of documenting specific events in high school. And others did neither. So I tossed them after carrying them through multiple (I don’t even want to tell you how many) moves, and now I just have a discreet number that I have for a reason, instead of from habit.

    If I did this on a regular basis instead of just when we move, it would be far more effective in simplifying and streamlining our possessions, which, frankly, would be very welcome.

    So tell me, how do you decide what to keep and what to purge? How often do you get rid of things? Do you have it scheduled? Have a constant “Goodwill box”? What works for you?

    Aaaaaaaand we’re back!

    February 2nd, 2011

    It has been quite a long time, hasn’t it? Yes, yes it has.

    But there are things afoot around here, things that sent me running back here to ponder and think and write. You see, the theme of this site is “celebrating the art of making a home”, and that will be coming into play majorly in the next couple of weeks because we’re moving!

    I’m super excited, and not just because we’ll have more space. I love moving for the chance it gives me to have a new start- to get rid of junk I’ve been thoughtlessly holding on to, to reorganize and restructure the way we do things.  So keep your eyes on this spot for more musings on all sorts of moving inspired thing; everything from what a living room is for to where to keep the cups.

    I’ve missed you!

    PS. What do you think of the new look?

    This is Halloween (HALLOWEEN, halloween)

    October 1st, 2010

    Halloween is big in our house. BIG. Z has declared it her favorite holiday ever since she was old enough to declare such things, and last year she had a record 5 costumes. Planning starts for the next year on Nov. 1, and it gets talked about all. year. long.

    Seeing as it’s October 1st, it’s about time to start celebrating. Last year I picked up this adorable count-down to Halloween …thing, calendar I guess, (it’s not an advent calendar, because it’s not advent.), and filled it with candy.

    This year I wanted to step back from the candy every day idea, and instead filled it with slips of paper containing Halloween missions. They include everything from “Go to a pumpkin patch” to “read a Halloween book”, and even “Find out what’s inside a pumpkin”. I’ve also included things that will need to be done for Z’s annual Halloween party (which will be Z and A’s party this year), like making and sending invitations, and buying things for the party.

    Hopefully this will allow us to spread out the celebration, avoid a bit of the candy, and not binge on our rather massive stack of Halloween books and movies right at the beginning of the month. And since I know (it will be a surprise for the girls) that two of the days have papers that say “Get a new Halloween book” and “Get a new Halloween movie”, hopefully that will keep me from buying new things all month long.

    It’s also inspired me to try to make a “holiday” countdown calendar that can be changed up and decorated for each holiday so that we could do the same thing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day, birthdays, Easter, you name it. Having a separate calendar for each holiday is a bit much, but with just one, you’d only have to store it and the decorations that went with.  Has anyone done anything like this?

    And before I go, let’s zoom in on this darling pumpkin, shall we?

    I LOVE it. Doesn’t it look like it’s been painted? *blissful sigh*

    Extra, Extra, Read all about it!

    September 14th, 2010

    Modern Day Martha is starting a book club. We’re no Oprah, but reading is one of the best ways to recharge your battery, refill your well, and a number of other apt analogies.  The trick is finding time to balance reading and the rest of life;  you know, making sure everyone in the house doesn’t starve while you finish those last couple pages. So often the level of difficulty of the books we read goes down with the level of busy-ness in our lives, and while YA novels are great, sometimes a challenge is good.

    So our first book is a doozy, a true “I will if you will” selection.

    Yes.

    Ulysses by James Joyce.

    You know you want to. You may be terrified, but you know you want to at least try it.

    Because we’re all busy, there’s no time limit on this. Read a bit, and come comment on the discussion over at The Book Club.

    PS. We have it on good authority that James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Study by Stuart Gilbert is very helpful in wending your way through the book.

    Edited to add, James Joyce’s Ulysses: Critical Essays is actually the book that’s supposed the be really helpful. The other one looks good too, though.

    Halloween Door Decoration

    September 14th, 2010

    I have a thing for door hangings. I try to always have a wreath or other door hanging at all times. They are usually season or holiday inspired.

    I saw an idea for a Halloween inspired door hanger/wreath and I loved it.  I haven’t been able to find the original blog post so if you know whose it is please leave a comment and I’ll update this post with proper credit. I have been thinking about making it for a few weeks but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it.  Making a Halloween decoration would mean that Autumn is really here.  I don’t think I was quite ready for that.

    Well this morning I decided that I would put it off no longer.  From my kitchen window I can see the trees in the mountains of Utah beginning to change colors.  There is no denying that Fall has begun.

    Halloween Wreath

    Supplies Needed:

  • Picture frame
  • Twigs
  • Black spray paint
  • Black Ribbon
  • Glue gun
  • Directions:
    Take the twigs outside and spay paint them black. I had the help of my three year old son so we also painted a bunch of rocks, grass and other things we found in the yard.

    My frame was already black but if yours is not, give it a nice coat of paint as well.

    Grab that trusty glue gun and position the twigs in a manner that is pleasing to you.

    Glue a black ribbon onto the back of the frame.

    Voila! Now you have a new spooky Halloween decoration for your door or wall and it only took a few minutes to make.

    Halloween Wreath 2

    Just embrace it.

    September 13th, 2010

    Always live up to your standards – by lowering them, if necessary.  ~Mignon McLaughlin

    Before you read this post, take a little wander over here, and check out these posts on NieNie’s blog, just so you have the context.

    So. I love NieNie’s idea of having a beginning of school feast, having a family theme for the year, having gorgeous decorations, celebrating the new beginning in a meaningful way.  Now that you’ve checked out what she’s done, (you did go look, didn’t you?) may I share our festivities?

    To begin, Z picked out our dinner menu- a dish that she invented and named “Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Dinosaur Chicken”; a title which, while descriptive, perhaps does not completely convey that the dinosaur chicken was grilled INSIDE the sandwich with the cheese.  They were, in her own words upon tasting them: “completely horrible!”  Luckily, our feast was rounded out by green beans and gorgeously delicious grapes that we picked up at the local produce stand, so it wasn’t all bad.

    We had lovely little cupcakes for desert, complete with overly sweet powdered sugar frosting and strawberries on top.

    B gave the girls their school blessings after dinner, and that was that.

    And you know what? It was great. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t impressive, but we had fun. The girls loved making (and eating) the cupcakes, the DinoChickenCheeseSandwiches will be laughed about for a long while to come, and the girls felt celebrated and ready to start a new year of school.

    And I’m not beating myself up that it wasn’t something else.

    The Art of Homemaking

    September 10th, 2010

    I often feel like a boat set adrift without a compass when it comes to homemaking.  So many times I have not had any idea what to do next or how to manage the tasks that arise in my daily life.  My mother in law has been singing the praises of a book she read as a young mother.  I was recently as my sister in law’s house and saw the book on her shelf.  I borrowed it and can see why it made such an impact in their lives.

    The Art of Homemaking by Daryl V. Hoole is a wonderful book that inspires me as a homemaker and as a mother.  It was written in 1967 by a lady who really knew her stuff!

    Book1

    “By systematically keeping your home clean through daily and weekly work, coupled with extra deep cleaning periodically, you will be able to rejoice in your sparkling home all year round…”

    I can see the value of that.  Makes perfect sense…

    Here are her eight points for an orderly home:
    1.  Let each room fulfill its function.
    2.  Streamline each room.
    3.  Keep neat closets and drawers.
    4.  Have the courage to throw away.
    5.  Label all stored items.
    6.  Store some food.
    7.  Learn the fun of filing.
    8.  Take care of the children’s toys.

    The next paragraph offers hope.  She says, “It’s never too late or too early.  Form the orderly habit now.  You know, if you make the things you have to do a habit you won’t have to force yourself any longer.  Then you will enjoy a neat home, peace of mind, and you’ll be able to find things – even in the dark!”

    She has so many great suggestions and thoughts on the entire process of making a home from organizing, daily schedules and cleaning that reading this book actually makes me excited to get up and take care of my home.

    I think many of the things she says are very logical and I probably could figure it all out after maybe 50 years, but I don’t have that long.  Or what I really mean is that I don’t want to spend that much time trying to figure it all out.  I want to know it all now and get on with my life.

    The first best thing that I have learned from this book, is her schedule of cleaning; there are daily items, weekly items, quarterly and yearly items.  The second best thing is really a complete mindset change about my tasks.  I have to decide to take pleasure and joy from my job and not be bogged down by the fact that I am doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…  I have a problem with this one.  Big time!

    One of the things I love about this book is that it was written in 1967.  You can really see that by the adorable illustrations.  Also by some of the things she says.  It’s too cute.  But instead of being too old fashioned to be useful, I am finding it to be exactly the opposite.  There are some old fashioned comments but I just laugh and keep reading.

    tomatoes

    One of the ways I have been implementing her teachings into my life is to make use of the ample garden bounty that my family and neighbors have shared with me.  I recently canned a really basic tomato sauce and tomato juice.

    To make the tomato sauce, I sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil.  Then I washed, cut off the yucky parts of the tomatoes and quartered them.  Next I put them in the blender and pureed the heck out of them; seeds, skin and all.  Then I dumped them in the pot with the onions and garlic.  I boiled the sauce until it reduced a bit and got thicker, probably a good hour.  Then I put into clean pint jars, put the lids on and turned upside down for the lids to seal.

    The juice was also very simple.  I washed the tomatoes, cut off the yuckies and put into my juicer.  The collected juice was then put in a pot on my stove and brought to a boil.  I boiled it for nearly half an hour to make sure that any little bacteria or other beasties were properly disposed of and then I ladled the hot juice into clean quart jars, put the lids on and turned upside down to seal.

    UsedTomatoes

    The day before I was able to process a bunch of corn to be used in the future.  I shucked it and then boiled the cobs and all for 5 minutes.  I pulled them out of the water and set aside to cool.  After cool, I cut off all the kernels.  Then laid them out on two jelly roll sheets and put in my freezer over night.  When frozen, I measured 3 cups worth into vacuum pack bags, sealed them up, labeled them and put back in the freezer.

    The only special equipment I needed for these three projects were a vacuum packer and a juicer.  All the rest were things that I think most people would readily have on hand.

    Next on the homemaking agenda is to really figure out my schedule and figure out the best way to put it in a place that I will use it.  I’m really wishing for an awesome homemaking iPhone app about now!

    I’ll get back to you with the schedule and maybe you’ll find it useful too.

    At this moment

    September 8th, 2010

    It is gorgeously overcast and *almost* gloomy outside. It’s the kind of weather that makes me want to hole up in my house, do art projects, and maybe (maybe!) venture out to the library. Maybe. Which is perfect, because that’s what we have planned for the day.

    The girls are dressed and fed, and playing with their “strawberry girls” – the newest obsession at our house. We get obsessed easily around here, if you hadn’t noticed.

    The laundry basket is full of clean clothes, waiting to be folded and put away.

    My desk is a complete mess, but on the very top of the mess is a portrait of Z’s favorite stuffed animal, drawn by one of our dear friends (who is a brilliant artist), so that makes me happy.

    All around the house, things are *almost* tidy, but not quite. There are dishes in the sink, a pile of papers on the counter, leftover breakfast and a butterfly identification guide on the table. The floor needs to be vacuumed.

    I’m thinking about preschool, which starts next week, and what last minute things need to get done.

    I’m thinking about friends, one who just had a baby, one who had a baby 2 weeks ago, and one who is sad, and wondering what I can do to help.

    And now I’m reveling in the beauty of my life.  There are moments (hours, weeks) that are so busy and chaotic, but at the core it really is simple, clear, and often shiny.  :) And exactly what I want.

    What’s going on with you, at this moment?

    Room to grow

    September 3rd, 2010

    Three stories.

    1. Our balcony garden fell on rough times during a recent heat spell. We’re not just talking wilting, we’re talking brown deadness that no amount of water could cure. So earlier this week I went out and spent time clearing away all of the dead leaves and stalks, leaving only the green. That left some of the plants a little… sparse. Z came out in the midst of this, and stared in horror at the pile of culled plant parts, and demanded to know what I was doing.  I explained that by clearing away the dead bits, I was allowing the rest of the plant to be healthier. A couple of days later,  the plants are growing by leaps and bounds.

    2. I’ve been growing out my hair for quite a while now. Recently it’s been going through an awkward phase, one that I’ve been struggling with a lot. But for the sake of eventually having long hair, I was fighting through it. A friend suggested that I get layers cut into it, to give it more shape during the growing out process. I got a hair style magazine to look for inspiration, and while the mid-length cuts were cute, there weren’t any that I really loved. And then I turned to the long hair section. While looking at the pictures, I had a realization: I don’t WANT long hair. I like the concept, but in reality I’d just end up putting it in a pony tail every day, just like I did when I had long hair years ago.  My hair doesn’t hold a curl, so it would just end up being straight- all the time. What really called to me was the super short, super cute cut in the “pixie” section. An hour later, my hair was super short, super cute. And I feel much better.

    3. In the never ending process of decluttering my house I attacked my craft closet. Everything is organized by type of craft, and as I went through everything with the intent to purge, I realized that the scrapbooking shelf; the paper, the embellishments, the brads, the eyelets, the journalling tags, hadn’t been touched in I don’t know how long- with the exception of pulling things out to use in multi-media sewing projects.  The grand aspirations of intricate scrapbooks detailing every tidbit of my kids’ lives weren’t coming to fruition, and having all of the stuff there just waiting wasn’t inspiring me, it was just making me feel guilty.  So out it went. I kept only those items that I love, and those that are eminently practical – like colored cardstock – and gave the rest away. And I can focus on the crafts I’m enjoying without feeling the guilt of supplies left unused.

    Is there anything you’re holding on to just out of habit? Would it help if you got rid of it?

    Yumminess. Or not. :)

    September 1st, 2010

    So, as promised, the curry chicken salad recipe from last night. I LOVED it, but I give it with the simple warning to let the people you’re serving it to know what it is ahead of time. Things were kind of rushed at dinner time last night, and I just served it on croissants with no description, just like I serve regular chicken salad, and apparently the taste came as quite a surprise that wasn’t exactly pleasant. But I think it’s completely delish, so I offer it here. (I snagged it from AllRecipes.com but made some changes, which is what I’m putting here. If you want the original recipe, follow that link.)  This made enough for about 4 croissants full.

    2  cans of precooked chicken
    1/2 stalk celery, chopped
    1/2 small apple – peeled, cored and chopped
    1/4 cup golden raisins
    1/4 cup seedless green grapes, halved
    1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

    1/2 teaspoon curry powder

    3/4 cup mayonnaise

    Mix everything together, and let sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving to let all the tastes mix together. Serve on croissants, bread, lettuce, whatever you like!

    Hope you enjoy it!