Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Rainy Day Favorites

It's raining today! I can finally open the windows and shut down the AC for a spell as we are finally getting a brief respite from the southern heat. I have always loved the tranquility of a rainy day: the smell, the sound and the natural way it slows us down to focus on the minute details of life.


So, in spirit of a laid-back day, here are a few fun things I am bookmarking around the 'web today.







 






A final note on the last item. I really want to adopt a Sato and will in the near future. I currently have two dogs and will need a respite in work before I can handle another one. Los Satos are basically a "breed" of Puerto Rican street dogs. They are everywhere (along with chickens and horses) on the island. While working there last year, I saw a lovely little girl give birth to 11 puppies. One died the same day and each day when I went to train the staff, I counted and noted another lost life among the litter. I am still haunted by that sweet mama dog and I wish I could have brought her home. These dogs are some sort of pit, lab, terrier and everything else mixed in for good measure. They are sweet and have quiet dispositions. Although some seemed feral, almost every one of them gave me a tail wag and came up to me for a head pat. The dogs were one of my most favorite memories of the island! There are several rescue groups both in PR and on the mainland dedicated to helping these dogs. If you are thinking about adopting a new companion, consider a Sato!

Happy rainy Wednesday!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Purge



I've spent the first half of my life acquiring all this stuff and 
now I'll spend the second half getting rid of it! 
~Olivia Evans (played by Patricia Arquette)

I love the above quote from the movie Boyhood. The character Olivia, a divorced mother of two, utters this when she is in her mid-to-late forties and I can relate fully. After my last move of 1001 boxes, I realized there were projects I am never going to complete (or even begin for that matter). For example, I am probably, at his point, never going to sew my own dresses or paint a portrait or even make a lamp out of that cool piece of driftwood, so why I am I  hanging on to boxes of vintage sewing patterns and cloth, painting supplies and driftwood? In the past couple of years, I have been feeling weighed down by all these good intentions surrounding me.

Soon after the divorce, I started to purge my belongings-some voluntarily, some by my ex. Clothing that no longer fit my middle-aged body (both in fashion and form) were some of the first to go. It hurt to see all my lovely vintage dresses lined up in a closet and never worn. I decided it was time to send them back to the Land o' Thrift for a new generation. I also sent back all the items I said I would sell on eBay or whatnot. I have already too much to do and my work travels make it hard to actually schedule the sales. And, anything bought specifically for the marital home had to go. Afterwards, I felt much lighter in spirit.

Eventually, I started to purge coffee mugs, dishes, extras of things I rarely used and registered a zero on the joy scale. I realized, as an introvert, I probably would unlikely be hosting cocktail soirees, backyard BBQs or dinner parties and so I whittled down my large collection of vintage dinnerware. I gave away boxes of knick knacks to friends, charity and (unfortunately) the landfill. I took care of maybe 10% of the clutter I had moved in to the Shotgun house.

Right before I left for work in Puerto Rico (April 2015), I read the Konmari book and I found it to be an easy read. I started slowly purging and it was very freeing to let go of things no longer serving their intended purpose to bring me joy. I told myself that when I returned in a few weeks, I would follow the steps precisely and rid myself of more baggage.

However, 3 weeks in PR turned into 6 and, by the time I returned, my life became messy and busy and I lost the Konmari spirit. I also started thrifting again and I never caught back up with my plan.

So, currently, the state of my goal to rid myself of joyless weights has stalled somewhat, but yesterday I did manage to recycle pounds and pounds of old work paperwork. I also threw old magazines into the recycle box. And, I have a large box of items ready to go to the thrift stores.

Next up on my purge list are the books. They fill every nook and cranny of this old house. I think, even if I live another 50 years, I could never read all of this material. For some reason books are the hardest thing for me to give up and I find myself pining for stories I shall never read. However, my hope is by freeing myself from all these material goods will give me a sense of calm and lightness of mind and spirit and maybe I'll find time to read again.

I will never be a minimalist, but I hope to find a happy medium between my love of stuff, love of thrifting and actual need. And this brings me to another great quote from Boyhood that I have been finding to be spot on:

"At some point you're no longer growing up, you're aging. But no one can pinpoint that exact moment." ~Richard Linklater

I have no idea if I am at that point yet (my body seems to think I am past it some days, other days I barely feel my age), but my guess is that after that precise moment, it becomes much easier to purge things.

(Photo taken at an antique store in Pittsburgh, PA)




Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I was a Neo-Homesteader Lifestyle Blogger



Despite the typos and badly aligned photos and other detritus in my posts, this is not my first blog. In fact, I have had many others over the past decade and a half. The one I kept the longest would be best classified as a "homesteading, coming into adulthood, parenting, lifestyles" sort of blog back when blogs were only somewhat classified. I kept that blog for almost ten years and during the time it was active, I had two farms, two children, got married/marriage fell apart, traveled through my 30s into my 40s, moved back to the city and started a career.


Back in the days of the homesteading life, I met so many other bloggers and some I have remained RL friends with many over the years despite distance and lifestyle changes. Most of our lives changed pathways as we grew older or our children grew older or our needs changed. Some grew with their homesteads, starting businesses or writing books, others gave up the ghost for new adventures  (I am in the latter group).


If you glance at my blog list on this blog, I still have some from my old blog listed despite no updates in 2 or more years. Some had already faded away and the URLs were lost between my old homesteading blog and this one. I am always hopeful they will come back and let us in on how they are dealing with life in general. I still follow many on new social media like Instagram and Facebook. I still feel as if I have known them as neighbors and friends and I hope they are all doing well. I  miss the community we had back then.


Today, while watching the news, I saw the story of a for-profit mommy blogger quitting due to the stress of having to create great money-making posts full of ideas, thoughts, happy children/marriage and "98% bullshit" (her words). Part of me feels empathy for how addicting and competitive blogging can become and part of me wonders why we ever became a competing blogging society full of pretty facades, graphic designer perfect sites and impossible ideals in the first place. They call these bloggers "Influencers", but what they influence, to me, is this strange, fake idealistic bar being set for us and, even though you may try as hard as you can, we will never meet this standard. For one, time is an element that makes this impossible. I am a full-time employee, a single parent, a single woman, borderline hoarder collector, home owner, dog mom, and community advocate and I barely have time to make sure my socks match most days. What I remember from the blogging days of yesterday was the sharing of our lives-the raw honesty (marriage stress, parenting stress, fatigue, mismatched socks), the fumbles and heartbreak (animals dying, crops failing, debt, or weather blues), the celebrations (childbirth, holidays, great crops and baby animals), the juggling of deadlines (work, parenting, farm, seasons, life), and our individual goals and dreams. I have to say I loved those days of few sponsored posts and simple, online journaling.


Now that is not to say I would begrudge someone who makes a little money or products from their blogs or that I don't read these blogs. Some of them are so interesting, pretty and colorful like a bag of jellybeans! I can see how much work they put into creating a beautiful, tailored online 'zine. And, back in the early days of blogging, I was occasionally contacted by companies to try out and write about their products and it made me feel proud. I can't say I wouldn't again say yes to trying out products and blogging about them. However, constantly happy blogs-you know the ones-full of perfect children, perfect décor, perfect meals, perfect figures, perfect photography and perfect projects, well these are really not as interesting to me as ones with a true snapshot of life. I am talking about blogs full of self-growth, real life experiences (including the painful moments), weird interests, change, failed and successful projects, celebrations when something actually does go as planned mixed in with the happy moments and just, well, full of real life moments. These blogs, like a real conversation with a sibling or friend will always hold a place near and dear in my heart and make me feel a little more like I have been a part of a much bigger society.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Potty-Life Part I



 
I'm baaaaaackkkk!

And, true to that greeting, if you really wanted to put an image of me all toothy smile and crazy eyes peeking around my shower curtain, you would not really be that far off from reality.
But, more on that in a second…
First, I’d like to back story it up a few months…errr, a year-ish and get caught up on why I abandoned this blog place in the first place. I swear it was not intentional!
1. As they are wont to do, the Universe has really thrown me some fast, hard shitballs in the past few years. As I mentioned in the last episode, I went through Hell otherwise known as Divorce. It was a true “Dallas” style divorce, complete with lots of drama, bitterness and mean attorneys; however, it was minus the big money and mascara-running crying scenes. Oh, wait…the crying scenes were definitely there, but the lawyers pretty much cleaned out the meager emergency fund, the tiny equity and worthless stocks, plus they even took the found-change jars and then gave us bills. As the saying goes, the only winner in divorce is the money-grubbing, soul-sucking, conflict –causing attorneys. Unlike other life events, divorce cannot be corralled to one single moment in my life. It was not like a wedding date or a birthday or even a blessed death date and no one warns you that divorce happens in a series of torturous showdowns for years to come. But enough about all of that, I am finally divorced, got the Shotgun House and I can finally duct tape back the pieces the attorneys and my ex left me and move forward. And, slowly and carefully and frugally, I have inched forward.


2. Next up on the shit-storm list has been my employment. This, too, has taken up chunks of my spirit, energy and time, but at least this circus of horrors provides a paycheck. It seems, being the youngest on the small workforce in my state (and this is probably the last time in my life I will ever be able to utter that statement) has left me the “last man standing” as every single one of my co-workers retired in the past couple of years. My employer, a huge entity in all our lives, has not back-filled and so my workload not only doubled, but tripled, then quadrupled and then…I lost count. Needless to say, other than a supervisor, I am literally (and mostly figuratively) an Army of One. I hear a rumor we may actually be hiring another person soon and this may make things easier. I won’t begrudge this point as I actually feel blessed to have a great job in my field of study (biology) and I am proud of the work we (as in me, myself and I) do.
Army of One-Note the eye rolling.
3. And, in narrowing the list down to the big 3 of shit-presents from said Universe, I will mention one other thing. It is house related. My other house, a small rental in another state, has been a huge albatross in my life. First, I had to evict a rotten tenant that helped me decide I will never, ever (probably) have another tenant. After eviction, the house could not be sold due to the issues in #1 (court-ordered hold on assets; I use this word loosely). So, it sat empty, yet cared for by my step-father. However, despite my mom and companion’s generous efforts, the house was broken into and all of the copper stolen. This was a huge blow and now I have another house to rehab besides the main one in this blog. I am sure I will share stories of that house as well as I mend her damage and hopefully get her on the market by the end of the year. In case you are wondering, the house is a cute 1933 tiny house before “Tiny House” was a TMed by hipsters.
So, back to the main topic of the blog: What do you do when the Universe insists on throwing poop at you? You remodel the bathroom is what!


I tried to create a scrapbook account of the Shotgun House bathroom rehab. In future posts I do plan to improve in the photography department and rely less on potty-mouth words, I promise (hopefully).

 
 BEFORE:

2012: Here is the photo the realtor took of the bathroom. I can't give credit because I can't remember the listing broker's name, but he took this in early 2012 (in case you can't see that timestamp). I will give him credit for not only photographing a small space, but making it look way better than it actually was. 


2013-2016: I bought the Shotgun in July 2012. I pretty much left it just like that for 2 years and then, in late 2013, I started to tear it apart  by removing/replacing the broken shower surround and tearing up the yucky vinyl flooring. I then lived with it in that stage for more than two years! I'm on the Slow Rehab Plan (SRP) for La Casa.

 
AFTER


I tried to recreate the Real Estate photo complete with crappy light

2016: Current state of things is that it is almost done. I still need to install trim at the ceiling, figure out a light switch, door hardware, and install the new light fixture, but overall I am really happy for how it is progressing. The great thing about buying an abandoned, forgotten home is that you can reimagine it through your own eyes. The house, to me, has a gypsy spirit and a mysterious, New Orleans-esque vibe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Here are some of the features:
  1. I replaced the nasty stock vanity that was falling apart with the base of a Victorian sewing machine ($10 estate sale purchase), a found tabletop (Cheers to Big Garbage Day and free!) and a porcelain sink bought at Habitat Restore for $5. Because this house had some other crazy rehabber at some point who also liked reuse as in whatever was on the super-clearance racks at Home Depot, I had to make due with the current plumbing layout. Eventually I plan to change it all out so it looks and behaves much better. I also need to hide the loo paper.
  2. Shower surround is new stock from the Home Depot. My ex-roommate helped me replace the stained, broken one that was in there. I trimmed it out to give it a more fancy look. Sometimes, one must give in to modern to get a job done.
  3. The tiles were purchased from the Habitat Restore for a forgotten cheap amount. They are grey and green and I made a "rug" pattern. I like them, but they are super hard to keep clean (. I am not too happy about that because I think I am related to Pigpen from the Peanuts, I have two boys and two dogs, so they will probably always be dirty. A couple of tiles also slipped during installation and I missed them! It bothers me greatly to see these out of alignment, but C'est la Vie-the labor was free.
  4. The color of the bathroom is a smoky grey violet (best seen in photo below on the left) and I love it. It is kind of a darker color and I've heard you are not suppose to use dark colors in a small space or else it will make it look even smaller. The space is roughly 36 sq feet-I am pretty sure I am not going to fool anyone with the illusion of space if I painted it all white. I feel quite chillaxed in there and the color goes great with my Mexican artwork collection 
  5. The majority of the décor came from the thrifts*, gifts or travels. I am in the process of paring down the belongings and I was really selective to what would stay. Here is what made the cuts (you'll have to "I spy" for them in all the photos): Alligator dish (gift from friend);  candle (gift from friend); jar of bath salts (jar thrifted, salts a gift from my kids);  she(thrifted); mirror (thrifted); hand towels (Target Halloween clearance); Mexican Artwork, pottery & Ex Votos (thrifted and travels); Madonna bust (thrifted); tarot card sign (eBay).
  6. I am working on the towel bar which is genuine Ohio River driftwood and these really cool towel hooks. I'll update this in Part II.





 
*Thrifts: secondhand stores, flea markets, antique stores, yard sales, etc.

 
I linked my post up with this fun event:
Tuesday's Linky Party #85

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015: Don't Let the Door Hit You in the Ass


2015 was this to me:

  • A shit-storm of emotions, burdens, loneliness, realizations, wake-up calls, growth and change.
  • A finalization to the three-year divorce battle of the roses (insert my last name and his which is not Rose)
  • The year I reached the summit of my life in age (despite feeling at least a decade younger most days).
  • This wonderful time I was able to spend two months on a work-vacation (mostly work) in Puerto Rico.
  • A time when I was unable to complete even one full task on the Broken House (although, I did try!)

So, onward march into a fresh New Year, I say, and here it is upon us! I just feel 2016 is going to a much better one and I made 20 goals to help guide me. And, just to be sure I have all my NY bases covered, I also decided a good word for 2016 is:

Repair (rəˈper)
1. To fix or mend (a thing suffering from damage or a fault).

2. The action of fixing or mending something.

       (Synonyms: Restore to working order, put right, renovate, fix up, overhaul...)
 
2016 Goals
  1. Pay off a third of my debt. More would be even better. How? See the next goal!
  2. No spend for an entire year (basically beyond very necessary items like pet food, a little perishables, TP, and the proverbial new underwear should they be needed, I will buy nada! I will also make a list of wish/wants/possible needs beyond the aforementioned and try to scrounge, borrow, and, last, buy used before succumbing the siren call of retail). This will also mean being creative in finding free entertainment, ways to save on food, and making gifts.
  3. Organize and purge the email boxes (both work and personal). You have no idea how tedious this one is going to be, but both have had years of neglect.
  4. Organize and purge paperwork. Again, work and home need some serious weeding/landscaping in this area.
  5. Read 25 already owned books and then purge, give-away, sell or whatever. Keep only if absolutely irreplaceable (like a reference book).
  6. Restart blog...Hey! Here I am!
  7. Learn something new. I am hoping I learn to identify mushrooms, but we shall see.
  8. Practice/study Spanish every day. I have Rosetta Stone and bilingual friends to call upon for this goal.
  9. Hike 12 new places.
  10. Build raised garden beds and grow something in them (something other than weeds, preferably).
  11. Rehab rental house and sell. I do not have time for a house 8 hours RT away. I had to hang onto it until the divorce was completed and it is. Bye, bye little cottage!
  12. Visit a new state and/or city.
  13. Organize office. Enough said.
  14. Purge/de-clutter/Konmari-the-hell out of the clothes and shit in this house.
  15. Be an urban forager: relearn edible plant ID, learn mushroom ID, try other urban foraging activities.
  16. Learn photo editing software and organize photos.
  17. Find a kennel for the dogs (I should knock this one out fairly quickly as my pet sitter is no longer a part of our lives and I will need one by end of January).
  18. Finish a house project before starting (non-emergency) one. I want to see progress!
  19. If I should happen to finish the many projects already started, begin this one: Pantry/workshop room.
  20. Do three art projects. I have some ideas, but I am leaving this one open.
  21. Do 6 things on the 101/1001 days list I made over a year ago. I am running out of 1001.

Happy New  Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dogs like Cookies Too


I am on my own tonight for Christmas Eve for the first time in decades. Last year, I had a boyfriend. The year before that, I had a housemate. Thirteen years before that I was co-habitating or married to my children's father. Before him, I had another boyfriend and lived in my hometown with siblings and parents and on and on. The last time I was alone on December 24th was when I was 25 and living in Tucson, AZ with my dog Isaak (RIP sweet boy). Exactly twenty years later, I am alone again. Well actually, like in AZ, I am not really completely alone now either; I am sharing the holiday with Banksy and Orca, my current two loving and beautiful dogs.

And, this holiday eve is warm and mild which has been a very lovely break from last year's hellish winter. The pups and I took a long walk along the Ohio river, under a bright, blue sky. When we returned home, I wanted to make cookies; however, I haven't much a sweet tooth these days. So, I made dog cookies!

Here is the recipe if you want to make some for your own loving canine. I based it off this one, but changed it to meet my own specifications. For one, I did not add dried milk or salt.

Canine Cookies

2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of oats (quick or regular)
1/2 cup of nutritional yeast (optional but adds nutrients and flavor)
1 bouillon cube (I'm a vegetarian so I used a vegan "pork" flavoring)

Put in mixer bowl and mix together

Add to flour mix

1 cup peanut butter (I only had chunky, but either one is fine)
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of water (enough to make a dough)

Mix well. Turn out on parchment paper and lightly dust with flour. Roll and cutout in desired shapes.
Bake at 300 degrees F for 40 minutes (until lightly browned). Let cool (the cookies will quickly harden up). Keep like any other cookies in airtight container.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Before/After Days


 
Before

It's been over a year since I updated the house/urban living blog o' mine. Since March 2013 (yep!), so much has evolved in my life. I am still living in my wonderful Camelback Shotgun house deep in the urban neighborhood of Portland (Louisville, KY). In fact, I am spending much more time here courtesy of a divorce and a change of job duties. In case I never mentioned it, I previously lived back and forth between here and Northern Indiana due to a job transfer and traveled north every weekend (a story for another time).

The divorce (still pending and still vicious) was petitioned July 2013 almost to the date of my house purchase anniversary (7/12). It's been stressful on my mind, heart and finances to say the least. House renovations basically came to a screeching halt while horrible, greedy lawyers and The Evil Ex sucked away all my savings. My vow to only use cash on the house work had to be adjusted. Sadly.

But, work has commenced and I am actually feeling more in sync with my old house and my new challenging life. I've made beautiful friends, worked in my community by planting trees and gardens, learned to be ultra-frugal and accepted that my life is headed in new and curious ways. I've made great strides even in the wake of a massive war that is divorce. My community involvement, friends and this house have helped me stay above swirling, dark waters. Well, all of those things plus my dogs (new guy joined our motley crew in December).

I hope to pick back up where I left off here. Catch up on all the sorid details. I have lots of photos to share and lots of stories to tell about the neighborhood and house that finally gave me a home. I want to jump back into the adventures of saving the soul of an abandoned house located deep in a transiting urban neighborhood or perhaps this is simply the story of saving the soul of an abandoned girl living deep in a transiting urban life.