Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cleaning Up and Clearing Out

The aftermath of Christmas begins to bother me earlier each year. It used to be that I would have my tree up by Thanksgiving and down after New Years, but no more. The paper and boxes that wouldn't fit in the can would sit in the corner until the next week patiently waiting their turn out side, but no more. I used to listen to Christmas music until Chinese New Year, but no more. This year was a record. Everything is up four days after Christmas. Does that make me look like a bit of a Scrooge? I hope not. Christmas this year just exhausted me. Between multiple illnesses and travel, I was wiped out before it even began! That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. Who could be out of the holiday spirit with all this going on?

No, my weekend was lovely, delightful, blessed in so many ways, but it was tiring.

The last few days all I could think was, how soon can I clear my house and, by proxy, my head. Not soon enough. The boys didn't mind when the tree came down even though there are still gifts for family and friends we didn't see due to illness or timing. The clearing out of the mess seems be as reassuring to them as to me. Life continues - on with the show!

This show is returning to its regularly scheduled house sale plan. Three months in the process we have received all positive feed back. The four people who looked love the house, but who would want to buy at full price what they can get for half price in repo? I was deeply discouraged last week (my plan was to spend Christmas at our new house and buy the boys new furniture for their rooms and a play house) when Griffin, 6, hugged me and said what I had said to him so many times; "God has a plan!" Oh, the faith of a child! So I bucked up and resumed carrying on:

What I needed was a distraction.

#1. Clear out Christmas clutter decorations. 

           I can't seem to think clearly in a messy house anymore. Blame it on age or finally growing up, but it drives me nuts. Putting up the decorations bring me almost as much joy as taking them down again.

#2. Clear out toy boxes.

          The boys got toys for Christmas. Because, you know, they don't already have eight boxes of toys in storage while we move. It's fine though. Most of those are probably ruined by now thanks to melting/freezing batteries. Sigh. There is a major clearing out of the (toy) storage unit planned for February.

#3. Clear out the closets.

            We have way too many clothes. Many of which we never wear. You have have heard the old study that people wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time? I believe it! I think part of the problem in my closet is that I have two wardrobes; a home one and a work one. Why do I need a work wardrobe? As a stay at home, homeschooling Mom with no need for an extensive fancy wardrobe in the need future, it's time to pare down.

#4. Donate everything. 

          I have done all these steps before and ended up no where because the stuff was "saved" for yard sales or friends or freecyle. No more. All donations are put in the trunk and delivered ASAP to the local thrift stores. Karma has to kick in at some point right? What you give out to the world will surely come back in some form. Maybe even a house offer.

#5. Take the month of January off.

Not from work or school or chores, but from running around and making myself needlessly busy. We have been sick SO much in the past two months you would think we would be sick of home, but if I'm not ever here, I can't get stuff done and when I have a moment here I am working. There is never any time to play or read or dream if your days are filled with appointments. I plan on doing something fun for Chinese New Year on February 3rd as a coming back out party. 

I'm wanting to sit down and work on the budget for time and money for the year some time this weekend. There are so many things I want to do and seemingly neither the time or money to do them. It's time to clean up and clear out our home, our finances and our schedules!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas Eve at Mom and Dad's

Christmas Morning and a surprise snow storm - the first white Christmas Alabama's had in over 50 years.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Grown up Christmas List

This time of year my kids are obsessed with lists. To make life easier on our extended family we started each of the boys an Amazon wish list. They update daily well into December and can often be heard running down the hall yelling, "Oh, I forgot something!" To further uncomplicate things, we forced Lou to get a list too. Have you ever tried buying for a grown man who is into electronics? "Now that was a what kind of graphics card?" Since that was everyone but me with a list, I joined in. Now I know that the things on our grown up Christmas list are usually things like health, job security, happiness for our kids, or a new house in my case.... but those things are hard to wrap. When I started my list I found I didn't know what I wanted. Didn't I know ME at all? What did I want anyway?
How about this little beauty. Yeah, it's a crock pot. I started small. This one however has settings that allow you to cook meat to a certain temperature and then keep it safely warm until you get home, it can start and stop on schedule with the push of a button and can all but cook the meal without me. After consistently leaving my crock pot on for a couple hours longer than anticipated and finding a less than savory meal waiting, this would be a God send. Further practicality prevailed with the addition of a gas grill and a heavy duty blender.

Then I started loosening up....

A blue bike. A pretty, girly blue bike. I could ride around the block with the boys, telling them to keep up with me instead of slow down while I walk along. While I was at it, I added a little wicker basket for the front.

I spotted these while browsing for Thanksgiving ideas. Do I need new dishes? Not really, but I adore these. A set of ten would last a lifetime. Will I get them at $55 a place? Doubtful, but I love to see them on the list and say - THAT is what I like.

When I came across this one I was in LOVE. I have an obsession with the Union Jack and this seemed like the perfect way to keep it with me all the time. Heehee. If Santa doesn't come through this one is going to find it's way here by the new year.

How about the gift of music? I love this movie and the music to it transports me somewhere peaceful instantly. It is the perfect remedy to loud boys and muddy floors.

And speaking of muddy floors... one of the last things I added: shiny, RED rainboots. I think they could brighten up any rainy day.

How about you. If Santa was to visit your house, would he (or you) know what you really wanted?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Birthday to Jane Austen

In honor of Jane's birthday we had a party complete with treats, art projects, air soft war, Wii games, an egg drop and a book swap. Totally fun, if not totally Jane.

Chocolate Pretzel Bark

If you are looking for a super easy candy to make for Christmas, this is it.

Chocolate Pretzel Bark

1 pkg of Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips (approx 2 cups)
1 cup of pretzels, crushed
1/4 - 1/2 cup of nuts of your choice (I favor pieced pecans), optional

Put chocolate in microwave safe bowl and heat on high for one minute. Stir and heat for 30 seconds, again on high. Sitr. Repeat if needed. Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the pretzels and nuts. Spread on a cookie sheet or casserole dish over wax paper until about 1/4 inch deep. Refrigerate for about an hour until set. Break into pieces and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Projects... for Next Year

Sometimes you see something online and you just think... I could do that! When I find something I like I have started copying the pictures into a file for later reference. These are the ones I have found this year and want to try my hand at:

 I love the look of the printed page, so I'm a sucker for any project made of old books or music sheets. This one especially spoke to me with the little bird and Christmas theme.
 This was an idea I had for images to use to make coasters. It is a set of the 12 days of Christmas. Cute!
 I thought this wreath would be great for any time. I love the star fish in the middle for summer! I think for Christmas I would put snowflake ornaments and some white ribbon.
Not only do I want these chairs, but I would want some beautiful ribbons to go on the backs year round - Fabulous!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Perfect Sugar Cookies

I'll admit that Christmas tends to bring out the perfectionist in me. This year is the first time in seven years that I am not making my "perfect" Christmas cookies. Is it painful? Yeah, I bit, but, darn it all, I can't eat them anyway!

photo from notsohumblepie

Decorative Vanilla Butter Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1Tbs pure vanilla extract
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla extract. Add egg; beat for one minute. Stir in flour gradually. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Roll on floured board; cut. Bake 325* for 12 minutes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

These cookies are buttery and best of all, they bake up without changing shape on you. I collect snowflake cookie cutters and this recipe allowed each little angle and edge to shine through. Frosted with coarse sugar and non-perials they were cookie perfection.

Allas, the first ingredient - one cup of butter - has parted us forever. Sigh. These cookies just don't work as well with the non-dairy margerine I have been using. They are great with Willow Run butter at $4 a pound, but not my $.75 Blue Bonnet light. What is a cookie diva on a budget to do?

Give it up and diva no more! LOL! It turns out that Pillsbury sugar cookies - the kind in the refrigerated roll - have no dairy in them. So this year for the first time I bought my cookies, sliced and baked them without my beloved snowflake shapes (which are still in storage) and frosted round cookies with dairy-free frosting.

And they turned out pretty darn good if not snowflakey.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The FIrst Snow

Snowy days are few and far between in the deep south, so while lots of places got more impressive snow, we were thrilled to have big fat flakes dust our home.

Our house