Saturday, July 13, 2013

Filing Cabinets Be Gone

I like things organized.  Even Lego - a bin for the blue Lego, a bin for the yellow Lego, a bin for the red, black, and white Lego.  You get the picture.  So, of course, it only seems natural that I like to file papers away - bills, receipts, whatever.  Actually ... I hate filing.  I especially hate the look of filing cabinets.  For an organized person they should carry a certain aesthetic, but to me they have a hard, ugly edge about them and there is definitely nothing fun about them.  They are all business.  Yes, yes.  Some crafty folks have painted them pretty colours.  Nonetheless, it does nothing to hide the fact that they are just plain awful.

Being an organized individual I've felt obliged to have filing cabinets in my home.  We all have paperwork, and therefore, we need filing cabinets, right?  Wrong.  I am here to set you straight today.  You don't have to have a filing cabinet in your home to be organized.  Let me explain.

As I was reading through various blogs the other day I found Simple Productivity Blog.  And this is where I learned that you don't have to use a filing system to be organized.  A simple box to hold your receipts, bills, and what have you, for the year is enough.  I had actually been doing this since we moved as I was avoiding the filing cabinets.  I was dreading going through this box ... but the box itself?  I had been finding it quite useful.  Anytime I needed to reference a bill I would go to my box and within a few seconds I would have it.  I needed a receipt?  Bam - I had it.  Could I have found it in some complicated, multi-coloured file system?  Probably.  But we're not some big corporate office.  We're just a family, with simple needs.

I think I'm going to continue with my box.  I am going to expand my box system ... I'll have a separate one for manuals, and one for Walter, Manuel and myself.  And ... I just might have to make them pretty looking ;)

Monday, July 08, 2013

Chairs Apart

I can't take them anymore.  Have a look.

No, look closer.

Not only is the colouring not my style, but the fabric is old and dirty.  Since we don't generally eat in the dining room I haven't really bothered with these chairs (eight chairs - six armless, two with arms).  I have known that at some point we would re-cover them ... probably when we found the right fabric.  But this past week, a week in which I had taken some time off and was with them every day ... I just couldn't take it anymore.  I had to see what I could do about them.  I started by taking the seat off one chair.

And then I started to pry those old, deeply imbedded staples.  Ugh.  It's hard work.  I'm using a small knife, chisel and pliers (from Manuel), and lots of concentration.

See this label?

Ah - that red and gold fabric isn't even the original stuff.

I'm still debating fabrics, and might try a few before getting it right.  I'll let you know as things progress ... slowly I'm sure as those staples are brutal.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

We Have Curtains

Goal #3 for July ... replacing Walter's curtains with something darker that featured frogs.  DONE.  Phew.  And let me tell you - it wasn't easy.  The sewing gods were against me.

I had purchased enough material to get three panels, one of which I cut in half so that it could be attached to the other two panels to make wider curtain panels.  The cutting went fine.  Sewing the half panel to the first full panel went fine.  When I did the second one I sewed it wrong, managing to get the seam to the front side.  Ugh - I had to manually, and carefully, pull out the thread for the whole thing and re-do it properly.  Next, I ran out of top thread.  Had to stop and re-thread a new bobbin (thankfully I had bought two when buying the material for the curtains).  The first one I selected was, I realized, too thick.  After doing one edge with it and seeing the rough outcome I decided to switch to the other new bobbin.  Next, the bottom thread ran out.  Had to stop and use the sewing machine to wrap new thread on.  Then the thread managed to get stuck underneath and jammed the sewing machine.  I got it cleaned up, but in doing so managed to get things out of line.  The needle could no longer go through properly.  I struggled to fix it, Manuel tried.  I took the rest of the night off.  Bummed.  The next morning I decided to pull out the old trusty manual sewing machine that my Mother had decided to give me.  It was the one I had learned on as a teenager.  My Mother no longer needed it as she had recently purchased a simple electric one.  At the time I had stored it away in the basement, unsure what I would do with it.  Opening the case I wasn't sure what to expect.  All those years ago ... it all came back to me.  I needed to put top and bottom thread in.  No problem.  I was up and running within 10 minutes.

Initially, it was a bit strange having to use my right hand to make the stitching happen, but it wasn't hard.  In less than 30 minutes the curtains were done - no electricity needed.  They still let some light in, but not as much as the yellow ones did.  Plus they are much wider than the old ones, meaning they give a better definition to the window.  Walter likes them, which is important.  I still need to get a few more clip rings to make them hang better, but they are perfectly serviceable (and enjoyable) as they are.

Friday, July 05, 2013

New Interior Decorator in the House!

My on-going decorating of the house must be rubbing off ... I have a budding decorator in the house!

He wanted to create something that added to the decor.  He took his crayons and with deliberate choices placed them in a pattern within the frame of this box that the lamp sits on.

I love the colours and patterns.  It immediately made Manuel and me smile.  And Walter?  He was very proud of the results!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Curtain Fabric

Would you believe I'm working on another July goal?  Yes, it's true.

Goal #3 - curtains for Walter's bedroom.  I went to Fabricana in Richmond.  This is a great store for fabric-obsessed shoppers.  A huge main floor plus a large mezzanine, all devoted to fabric.  I wandered around a bit, but then honed in on the quilting section.  This area has a large selection of cotton, and cotton-mixed fabrics with wonderful patterns.  I was a little worried about the fabric theme Walter wanted - frogs ... but it wasn't long before I found multiples.  Cute ones, serious ones, colourful ones, subtle ones.  So many to choose from.  I finally settled on a fabric that had a black background with happy, colourful, smiling frogs all around.

The black background should help with the sunlight at bedtime, and the colourful frog pattern is just plain smile-inducing.

Oh, and another fabric caught my eye.

I decided Walter's old yellow curtains will go in the guest bedroom.  I'm thinking this fabric will be used in the master bedroom.  It has a subtle geometric pattern and several colours to choose from as a basis for other decorating decisions that need to be made ... for instance, wall colours and bed linen.

Tomorrow I hope to measure out the new curtains for Walter's bedroom and start sewing, sewing baby.

Cherry Jam

A-ha.  I did it.  I completed one of my July goals already!  Perhaps it was the embarrassment of not accomplishing any of my June goals ... whatever the reason, I took the cherries we had picked up while in the Okanagan this past long weekend and I made cherry jam from them.  The trip back Monday was quite hot and the cherries didn't fare well.  Out of an 18-lb box I only managed to save 3-lbs for the jam.  However, that gave me 7 1/2 250ml jars of lovely, sweet and slightly chunky jam.

To start, I couldn't find my canners.  I was also a little worried about using the old black-speckled enamel canners on the ceramic stovetop.  I decided I would go out and get a new stainless steel canner with a glass-top lid.  a 7 jar canner didn't sound too big ... although the box it came in was quite large.  When I got it home and opened it up I understood ... it was big.  Huge.  I had read that canners shouldn't exceed the ceramic stove top element by more than 1" on any side which meant my largest element, at 9" could take a canner of 11" across.  This stainless steel canner was 14", nearly 15" across!  Still, I thought as long as I left the canner aligned on one edge it could "hang" off the other side. (The worry of size has to do with heat build-up and either cracking the surface or damaging the element itself.)  I put the rack in, started pouring water in, and put the element on high.  Once it was full I put in the jars to be sterilized and placed the glass lid on.  It was nice to be able to see in without raising the lid.  This, unfortunately, made it easier to see that the water would never come to a boil.  It did get hot enough to sterilize the jars ... but no rolling boil.  So I hefted the thing over to the other side of the stove.  Ugh.

I had read some people used a regular stock pot and placed stones on the bottom (the rack normally used in a canner keeps the jars off the bottom and boiling water circulating around the jars which is required to heat the contents of the jars to the appropriate temperatures).  I went outside and picked out stones from around our front stoop.  I put them in my stock pot, rinsed them, and then boiled them in fresh water for 20 minutes to help sterilize them a bit (I wasn't sure where they had been, right?!).  Then I drained them off and put fresh water in, and set a light boil for the canning step.

Here you can see from left to right:  jam making (with pot behind warming the lids), stock pot with those rocks, and the big new stainless steel canner (big right?!).

I went through the rest of the recipe, making the jam, steaming the lids to soften the rim, and getting things ready for filling.  Once I had filled the jars, and placed lids on, I started putting them in the stock pot.  Another problem ... they tipped, they tottered ... they simply didn't want to stand up.  Those rocks weren't flat or stable at all.  I tried my best to keep them somewhat erect and proceeded to process them.  When I took them out and placed them on the counter they all popped nicely, but I did notice that the water looked pink.  The lids were definitely on properly, but I could see that some siphoning had occurred.  I thought about re-processing them, but read conflicting things about whether it was necessary or not.  The following day I tested the seals and they seemed impossible to pry off without a bottle opener.

Aren't they pretty?  I opened one to test the contents.  Verdict?  Goooood :)

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Goals for July

After my complete failure over my June goals I'm scaling back considerably.  How about a balance between self-goals, and some around-the-house goals?

Goal #1 - I happened upon the Fast Diet while perusing the PBS shop.  I decided to do some Googling to see what others had to say about it.  Interesting ... the idea is to fast 2-3 times a week, but never back-to-back.  For instance, you might fast Monday and Thursday (or in my case, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).  On your fasting days you eat 500-600 per day.  The other days you eat normally - to figure out what "normal" is for you use the on-line calculator to figure out your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).  I'm on a fasting day today.  Since I've decided to jump start my diet with three days of fasting each week I've allowed myself 600 calories a day on my fasting days.  On my non-fasting days I'll incorporate exercising to up the calorie expenditure.  Between fasting and exercising I'm hoping to lose 1-2 pounds per week.  My Fast Diet experiment will be a self-goal.

Goal #2 - To finish two books I've been reading for a few weeks.  Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw is a great read.  I'm thoroughly enjoying it.  I love reading his views on food and the food industry.  Joel Bakan's Childhood Under Siege is a real eye-opener.  This book exposes how Big Business is targeting our children - making addicts and over-consummators out of them before they even start school.  It's making me really understand TV, video, electronic games, and toys.  I'm thinking hard when I let Walter use/watch them and talking to him on an ongoing basis so he can understand what Big Business is trying to do to him.  I don't expect him to fully understand immediately - it'll be an on-going process - but I think it's an important life lesson.  So another self-goal.

Goal #3 - The cute curtains I sewed for Walter when we lived in the townhouse just aren't cutting it anymore.  First, they are a little too narrow for his current bedroom.  Second, being predominantly yellow, they are letting in too much light.  This might be OK in the winter when it gets dark early, but right now in the peak of summer the long days are creating havoc on bedtime routines (who wants to go to bed when it's still light out, right?!).  I told him I wanted to make new curtains for his bedroom.  He immediately said he wanted frog curtains.  I'm sure I can find something.  If I can't get thick enough fabric, I can back the material to create enough thickness to create a darker window covering.  I'll also do some research to understand the principles of black-out curtains.  This is an around-the-house goal.

Goal #4 (how did I manage to get 4 goals???) - It's the height of fresh fruit and vegetables.  I'm going to do some canning.  Right now we have some cherries that don't have much time left on them ... cherries are notorious for going bad quickly.  I have two ideas for this:  1. Cherry Jam, and 2. Cherries in Light Syrup.  I'd also like to try canning tomatoes - sauce, salsa, and crushed.  This is another around-the-house goal.

To Start - Since I have some cherries in the house I'm going to start with Cherry Jam to try to get one goal checked off right away.  Tomorrow I'll shop for material for the curtains.

June Goals - Recap

My goals for June were obviously too much for me.  There was a lamp, curtains, garage sale/craiglisting, and a little crafty project.  I managed to do ... none.  :(

I started off OK - I sanded the lamp base to roughen up the shiny surface so that I could spray a new colour (white).  That went OK.  I then sprayed a thin primer coat to cover the beige colour.  I let that dry and sprayed a few thin coats of the new white colour.  That went fine.  I let it sit overnight and then tipped it sideways so that I could get the bottom and edge covered.  I let that dry and then stood it back up.  A sprayed another thin coat.  That's when I saw it.  A strange, crinkly spot.  Well, actually two crinkly spots.  I told Manuel about it and he immediately knew the cause.  I had touched the lamp with my hands.  Even though I thought my hands were clean he said the natural oils from my hands had transferred to the lamp and when I sprayed another coat the oil and paint created a funky crinkly look.  Which might be fine all over, but just too odd spots ... well, it looks bad.

This side looks OK.

However, when you turn it ...

Ugly crinkly paint.  So sad.  That failure burst my bubble and I put the project aside.

The rest of the goals just never happened.  What with Walter's birthday to organize, end of school events, and getting ready for a small trip to the Okanagan for Manuel's mothers 80th birthday ... I ran out of energy and time.

Bad me.  But that's life.