30 Days of Spring Cleaning

I’ve noticed a lot of blogs doing monthly challenges and I’ve decided to give myself one, similar to the monthly cleaning challenge at IHeart Organizing. Why? First, because it’s spring cleaning time and my house definitely needs a good scrub-down, especially after being shut up tight all winter. And having the icky slushy salty stains of winter weather being tracked in. Second, because I am a total clutter bug. I live amongst piles. My mother thinks I’m going to end up on Hoarders or die under a pile of books or something along those tragic lines. So I really need to clear out some of this junk. Since there are 30 days in April, I’ve come up with a list of 30, but I doubt I’ll do a thing a day (and not just because it’s April 2nd already!). Here’s my list:

  1. Dining room – Clean off the table and clear out the hutch/drawers/cupboards
  2. Living room – Clean out all the drawers, shelves, baskets and other cubbies
  3. Front Hall closet – Do I wear all these coats? What’s in that box on the top shelf? This is prime storage space — I should be using it better
  4. Bookshelves – Organize and donate
  5. Desk Drawers – Figure out which papers I actually still need on file and which I can shred. Do I need those pay stubs from 2003?
  6. Office closet – What actually belongs in here? This is where all the random stuff ended up when I moved
  7. Office desk top organizers – How do I set this space up so that I actually use it?
  8. Linen closet – Organize, get rid of expired stuff, etc.
  9. Bedroom closet – Switch over to spring summer clothes and get rid of stuff I no longer wear
  10. Bedroom dresser – Same as the closet, but with more foldy-type clothes
  11. Shoe closet, aka the back closet — Reorganize this so I can reach my spring shoes more easily. Take a good look at winter shoes and have the ones that didn’t survive the season repaired or replaced
  12. Pantry – Pull everything out and give it a thorough scrub down. Toss expired food.
  13. Dish shelves – Give everything a wipe down
  14. Cooking utensils and cook wear — Clean out all drawers and cupboards. Donate stuff I never use.
  15. Fridge – Scrub it out and check all the dates on condiments
  16. Junk Drawer – What is even in here?
  17. Shampoo all the carpets – Living room, dining room, hall, back hall, bed and office
  18. Craft supplies – Organize them so that I can pull out and finish one project at a time
  19. Kitchen stove/oven – Clean the oven
  20. Laundry room – Vacuum. Hope the spiders don’t get me.
  21. Email – Go through and delete as many old emails as I can. Especially ads
  22. Old computer – Finish migrating old files to the cloud or to my new computer (before old computer finally croaks)
  23. Photos – Organize my photos in folders so I can find them
  24. Car – Detail it, inside and out!
  25. Dog – Give her a bath and get her a pedicure
  26. Storage unit – Inspect for water damage and other possible issues. Get rid of anything that’s not needed.
  27. Garden – Rack through and pull all last year’s dead plants in preparation for spring
  28. Alley – Get out there and pull out the dead poisonous weeds before they come back to life!
  29. Back yard – Find all the presents that Bronwen left back there that have been covered by snow till now
  30. Front porch – Sweep it clean and clear any dead plants out of flower boxes

Do you have a spring cleaning list? How do you tackle it? Anything big that you think I missed?

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Quick Update: Resolutions

Since it’s been over a month since I set out my resolutions, I thought I’d give an update on my progress.

1. Save more. A lot more.

This one is probably my biggest fail. I mean, I’ve definitely saved some money…but I also decided that I should go to Puerto Rico to escape this horrible cold, so it’s definitely not as much as I could. My house and emergency funds continued to grow at the rate I set to save, but my vacation savings fund is back down to zilch. Do I regret it? No. I mean, have you been outside in Southeastern Wisconsin? It’s miserable! I need a vacation!

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2. Invest more time in the hobbies I’ve neglected.

I’ve done pretty well with this one! I’ve been running fairly regularly (probably an average of 2.5 times per week). I’m back up to 6 miles, and today I ran 3 miles in 27 minutes, which is a fantastic pace for me. I’ve also taken up knitting again, and I’ve been fairly decent about updating a blog. So, for the first two months of the year, I’m going to count this as a resolution kept!

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3. Set out to just do a few things at a time, and do them well.

I think resolutions 2 and 3 oppose each other a little, but I’m doing my best. Like I said, I’ve improved my running. I have actually managed to make an omelette (yay!) and I’m working down that food list. And I’ve done some pre-planning for the garden that will hopefully make it better this year.

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4. Give more time to other people.

I think this is another one where I’ve done fairly well. I’ve been running almost weekly with one friend, reached out to a few people I’d been out of touch with and have had dinner with a few friends on different occasions outside planned “group” events. Right now, the “person” I think I need to work on paying more attention to is the dog. Poor Bronnie doesn’t like it when I go out with people this much!

"Please play with me!"

“Please play with me!”

So, that’s my short little update on New Year’s Resolutions. If you have them, I hope you’re making progress as well!

Some updates

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that! It turns out that managing three blogs at work means that I’m less inclined to work on my own blog at home (go figure). But that’s going to change in 2014, I swear!

Some exciting changes here. For one, I got a new camera! It’s a Sony Cybershot Mark 100, which is a compact, fixed-lens camera, but with an incredibly powerful lens and sensor. I wanted a small camera for travel, but didn’t want a mediocre point and shoot. So far, I’m really happy with the purchase. I took it with me on my recent vacation (I went to Paris. Everything people say about it is true.) and got some great pictures with it. I do have a few catch-up posts to share, which will still feature less-than-perfect, step-by-step iPhone pictures, but after that you should see a noticeable improvement in photo quality. If anyone is interested in how I went about choosing my camera, leave a comment and I’ll do a post. I did a lot of research ahead of time and went to about 5 stores to look at cameras in person (I research things to death when I make a large purchase). Otherwise, I’ll assume you get your camera advise from a camera expert!

Some other exciting things you missed:

I made this cake for my sister’s birthday. It was ridiculously good and impressed everyone who ate it, even those who ate smooshed leftovers out of a tupperware three days after her birthday.

susan's birthday cake

At one point my vegetable garden was producing crops like this on a daily basis (this is my share, after giving the upstairs neighbors their share):

veggies from garden

I can’t wait to start planning for next year’s garden, and I’m hoping to share some of the stuff I learned having a vegetable garden for the first time.

And at one point, my living room looked like this:

Brown Living room

In an attempt to try something new, I painted the living room a nice cozy brown (Basketry, by Behr). I actually still really like this color. It’s a great mid-tone neutral—not too green or too red, in my opinion. But, with the wood trim and floors it was a lot of brown. Then I bought a brown couch (not what I intended at all—I’ll definitely share my couch saga soon!), and a too low coffee table and the room slid into a horrible state of Not Working At All. So, aside from the couch (which I LOVE), it’s completely different!

Oh, and I bought these insanely girly hooks for $2 each at Anthropologie. Everyone who saw them on my counter said they were really flowery and looked like they belonged in a little girl’s room. Everyone who’s seen them on the wall  (they  in my back hallway next to the door) has complimented them. Girly can totally work in a grown up house.

girly hooks

So that’s what’s been happening here. More to come soon!

Changes, Decisions & Life in General

In two weeks, my Advanced Placement class takes their Statistics exam.

The ACT was this week.

Oh, and on Sunday, this happened:

Ring

I actually have a few drafts, but now I need to edit them–I don’t have a Boyfriend anymore. In a week, things will calm down a lot, and then the week after that (AP exams), even more.

I haven’t been planning my wedding since I was five. I have no idea what I’m doing. But we are both really excited–here goes nothing!

Style Evolution: Old Apartment

I started writing this post before I started moving. Then, no internet for three weeks (oh, the agony!). But now that I’m settling into the new place, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the old place.

Mary’s post about her living room is a pretty good description of how my style has evolved – I’ve worked with what I had and made the most out of things I don’t necessarily love. I have a lot of hand-me-downs, a lot of thrift store finds and a lot of furniture from box stores like Ikea and Target. And you know, I think I’ve made that work pretty well. That’s been my budget, and I think I managed to mix the practicality of using what I had and throwing in some smaller new stuff to make it work.

So let’s take a tour, shall we?

You enter the apartment at the top of a flight of stairs (no landing), and step into a narrow, L-shaped hallway.

The front hall

The front hall

Front hall towards kitchen

Front hall towards kitchen

When I moved in, most of the wall in the apartment were dingy beige and the trim was dusty taupe, and in pretty rough shape (tons of chips). It took about two weeks to paint the hallway, living room and bedroom. The gray here is Burnished Metal by Behr, and the Trim is Behr’s Ultra White. (I’m a huge fan of Behr’s Paint and Primer in one.) I love how this turned out. (I actually love this color so much that when I had paint samples stuck to the wall of my new place, I picked this color again, having no idea it was the same until I ran down to the basement to get touch up paint when I moved out.)

Since the space was so narrow (the exact width of the doorways), I only hung pictures on one wall in each passage, but I think keeping the frame sizes and shapes consistent really dressed up the space.

Kitchen

Kitchen

Since I painted so much of the apartment, I left the kitchen color as it was. It was a beige-y yellow that felt a bit Tuscan to me. The cupboards were a mishmash, but the giant wall of windows made up for any shortcomings in this kitchen. Pity the curtains are closed in this picture.

More Kitchen

More Kitchen

I invested in a nice island-type table that could seat four (even if you could only crack open the fridge when both flaps were up), added narrow shelves above the sink, asked my mom to make some basic cotton curtains for the windows (both for privacy and temperature control). And we added a ceiling fan, which made a huge difference in the functionality of this room in summer. Oddly, the bathroom was tucked under the eaves right off the kitchen.

Bathroom

Bathroom

Not stunning, but there was a ton of storage that made it usable. The sage green towels I’ve had for years looked pretty good too. On the other side of the kitchen was a small carpeted room that I used as a pantry.

Pantry

Pantry

Since it had an outlet and a light, I was not only able to store food in there, but kept my kitchen aid mixer and microwave in there too. It was just a step away from the stove, and really helped keep my limited counterspace clutter-free.

Looking into the living room

Looking into the living room

My living room evolved around a couple key hand-me-downs and some lucky clearance finds. The loveseat (and despite the size of the room, I could only have a loveseat because of the narrow hallway and door) was a gorgeous designer hand-me-down that used to belong to an interior designer friend of the family. The green chair and rug were both new, but floor models, so I got them each for about 75% off from Pier One and Ikea respectively. These are three pieces of furniture that I really love, but I have discovered that the loveseat is fantastic for curling up to watch a movie or read a book by yourself, but not really functional for company.

The "L" of the living room

The “L” of the living room

Now, you’ve seen these chairs before. They weren’t quite what I had in mind for this space, but they were a free hand-me-down from my mom, and I do love how they turned out with new paint and fabric. I also love how glass doors turn the cheapest Ikea bookshelves into something really special.

Living room looking toward hall

Living room looking toward hall

I also really like my TV armoire. I like that it keeps the TV dust-free and out-of-sight when I ‘m not watching, that it’s actually made of real wood with a nice finish, and that it was another free hand-me-down from friends of the family. I’m not crazy about the way you can see all the cords underneath, or about how wide it is, but all-in-all, it’s a nice piece.

Office

Office

Off to the side of the living room was another under-the-eaves room, which I used as an office. I had a desk made of two file cabinets and a huge glass table top. I regret buying that glass table top! It’s too heavy to move by myself and it’s so large I have to use brackets to brace it against the wall. The room had another sloped ceiling, but was long enough to pack in quite a bit of storage for my craft and office supplies.

Messy, messy office

Messy, messy office

Bedroom

Bedroom

The bedroom was one room I never really did much with. The Ikea dresser was purchased to fit a specific space in a previous apartment (and I’m sick of the blue) and I never really found a rug I liked, so I just threw down a tiny Ikea mat. Also, the radiator made bed placement really difficult.

Bedroom window

Bedroom window

I do love my textured white curtains (and the cute dog peeking out the window). But I’m not crazy about my headboard anymore. Or the return-discounted mattress set I purchased almost 10 years ago (it’s a full-size firm bed, and I’m a side-sleeper who’d rather have a soft queen-sized bed). Also not great? The blankets I constantly have on the bed to keep dog hair off my sheets because someone likes to nap there while I’m at work.

So there it is. Not super-stylish, but not too terrible either. But now that I’m in the new place, I’m eager for some change. And, for the first time in my adult life, I can actually purchase a few new things too. I still have a pretty strict budget, but there’s a little more flexibility to, say, buy a couch that I like, instead of one at Goodwill. So I think it will be really interesting to see how things evolve in the new place.

At the same time, I keep reminding myself that part of the reason I have inexpensive, fine-for-now furniture is because I rent, and I never know how long I’ll be somewhere or what the next place will be like. So it still doesn’t make a ton of sense for me to spend a fortune on  decorating a place I might be in for a year or two. And money I don’t spend on that, is money I can eventually spend on buying and decorating a place that I actually own.

2013 Goals: Lesley

2012 finished up with a lot of big changes for me. I started a new job, leaving a great boss, some funny coworkers and a carpool behind and launching on a new adventure that, frankly, opens up a lot of doors for me, professionally and personally. I also ended a relationship, leaving me with a lot more time on my hands. 2013 is beginning with a very clean slate for me.

So what will 2013 bring?

New Apartment, New Decorating Projects?

Well, I suspect 2013 will bring a new living arrangement. I live in a very old duplex and my landlords are moving out of state due to a job opportunity. Since my new job brought me a substantial pay bump, I’m hoping to find a slightly nicer place that’s still affordable enough that I can aggressively save towards some of my goals (a very healthy emergency fund for 6 months of expenses, the down payment for a house of my own, a nice vacation, etc.). But moving is expensive, finding an apartment that takes a 75 lb. dog is ridiculously difficult, and I actually hate moving. Since they have a management company taking over the yard work, I think I might stick around…or I might move down to the lower unit, which has two bedrooms, a large kitchen (with a dishwasher!) and a dining room. Stay tuned.

More Regular Blogging, Better Blogs

Since I’m going through so many changes, I’m sure I’ll have a lot to write about. I also need to get better about finishing projects before I start new ones, so hopefully, I’ll have more projects to tell you about. And I’m trying to take a more active role in the cooking group I belong to and focus the activities I’m scheduling on budget-friendly foodie events, so that will probably mean more cooking and more recipes.

Because of the direction my career is taking, I also need to be more proactive about my writing blog, and post there more regularly. And, for both blogs, I need to think more about how we’re using social media.

Lastly, I really want to improve the quality of photos I’m posting on this blog. Using a digital camera to photograph beadwork is very hard – you need a camera with more advanced focusing capabilities and a little point and shoot or iphone camera usually won’t do the job. I also want to be able to crop and watermark photos, which I can’t do with my current computer because the operating system is so out of date. So a new computer and camera have been on my to-buy list for months. I’ve been saving steadily for both of them, and hopefully will have both by the end of January. That will hopefully help improve the quality of the blog and the photos, since I’ll have tools that are working properly.

What about you? What are your goals for 2013?

What I Got: Lesley

It’s a little late for a Christmas post, but since I’ve been away from the blog for awhile, I thought I should add my holiday recap.

Out Christmas was very relaxed and peaceful this year. We spent Christmas Eve with my “faux” family (my mom’s best friend’s family). It was great, with kids running around, our usually grab-bag gift exchange (everyone brings a present worth $25, we draw numbers and pick gifts in numerical order), and this year we did soup. I made Russian Mushroom Barley soup, which I thought turned out pretty good (not quite as good as the Soup House at the Milwaukee Public Market, but pretty tasty). My cousins, Andy and Kim, did a Lobster Bisque that was knock-your-socks-off good. And my Aunt Susie made a split peas soup, and cousin Matt made…some other soup with meat that I also didn’t try. But it was also good. So yay for fun family time with tons of yummy food!

I got this fancy no-batteries-required radio/cell phone charger in the gift exchange. I really like having it as part of my bad weather/zombie apocalypse survival kit.

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The next day we woke up, waited for my sister and her fiance to arrive then enjoyed crab cakes benedict and my dad’s fried potatoes for breakfast. It was fantastic, but we really needed something green to go with it! Very heavy breakfast.

We opened gifts and just lazed around for most of the day. My favorites included:

Noise canceling headphones (I sit next to a very noisy group at my new job)

Stainless steel measuring cups, with the measures engraved on the handles instead of printed (These suckers will last me forever, unlike my last plastic set, which lost both labels and entire handles due to heavy use).

Sky High: Triple Layer Cakes (I need occasions to bake for now because these look fantastic).

I also got a lot of little odds and ends for my gym bag, cute homemade pajama pants from my mom and a few other odds and ends.

Hope your holiday season was also filled with lots of merriness.

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What I Got: Mary

Santa was good to me this Christmas (as were my family, Boyfriend, and Boyfriend’s family). My final “Christmas” was just Sunday, and I had a celebration filled week:

Christmas Eve we headed out to my mom’s to have dinner with my mom & sister and open some presents there (thanks for the adhesives sis!) and then go to my mother’s church for Christmas Eve service (round 1). After the service, we hopped in the car and headed back to the city for dessert at a friend’s (we were invited for dinner but church round 1 conflicted), then went to my church for Christmas Eve service (round 2).

When Christmas morning rolled around, Boyfriend and I opened a present apiece and then cooked–prepping a ham, making mac & cheese and mashing potatoes. Then we headed out the door for Christmas day service (yep, round 3 if you’re keeping track at home) at his church. His mother and brother drove in to meet us and came back to my place after the service for Christmas lunch/dinner. We actually celebrated with his family the following day, but it was a lovely afternoon–and when they left we opened the rest of our gifts to each other.

My favorites?

edge-midnight-23x11-pillow

The most perfect navy pillow I could think of for my busy couch

Along the keeping-it-cozy theme, I also got a new throw blanket for my couch with a basket to store it in (the basket was a me-to-you-to-me gift since I don’t mind having it draped over the side of the couch but Boyfriend thought it should have a nice little home). I think he saw it in one of my magazines or on my Pinterest or something though, so thats super cute.

This dark blue throw is perfect for curling up on the couch

This dark blue throw is perfect for curling up on the couch

And what did I get him?

A box of circles. Cut out of paper.

I think I’ll just leave that one a mystery for now–but don’t worry, it was his favorite Christmas gift from me, and I’ll tell you more once its finished.

The next day we headed out to Indiana for Christmas with his family, including his niece and nephew. Everyone gets gifts for the kids, but the adults just draw names. I drew his mom and his sister drew me–she got me the “Cadillac of paper cutters” as her husband kept teasing me. It’s every bit as amazing as I thought it would be.

We brought Boyfriend’s brother back to Chicago with us, for a shopping trip the next day. He just moved from Ohio to Michigan for a work transfer and has a very big, very empty new house. He picked out a couch from Crate & Barrel and wanted to hit up Ikea as well–yes please! In more boring news, I got a couple of frames to match ones I already have (which means…the bathroom is really, truly, officially D.O.N.E.) as well as a frame for the aforementioned box of circles Christmas present.

I’ve been lusting after this gorgeous bowl for my coffee tables, and its as pretty as I thought it would be.

Merry Christmas to me!

Merry Christmas to me!

Did your house get anything great for Christmas? What was your favorite gift to GIVE?

Life is Fragile

This has been a rough couple of weeks. I don’t really have a point here, but:

Last night my father was hit by a car. He was going out to dinner with his wife and saw a car get sideswiped (or something). He got the license plate number and went to cross the street to tell them. He walked in front of a stopped bus, saw no one coming on the left, and stepped out. Just as a car changed lanes from behind the bus to his lane. Going over 30. He went flying through the air, shattered the cars windshield and then fell to the ground. HE’S FINE. He never lost consciousness, and didn’t even break anything.

The day before my birthday, my student (and mentee) was shot. He’ll be ok, but the friend that was with him was killed. I spent the first half hour of my birthday frantically trying with the dean to get details–was it him? (yes) what hospital is he in? can we see him? will he be ok?

He’s in a gang. He has some pretty serious psychological issues. He had it coming. He’s also a fifteen year old kid, who loves math and asks amazing questions in an “on” day in class. He’s really bright. He’s also the worst kid in the school. But he’s my worst kid and it was terrifying. I saw him in the hospital, and he’ll be ok.

And last, this weekend I was in Tennessee* with a bunch of family to scatter my grandparents ashes. Both of them passed away within the past year, less than six months apart. My grandma and I were very close and her death was sudden–but I had all four of my grandparents nine months ago, and I don’t know anyone else who had so long with all of their grandparents. I’m lucky for that.

I don’t have a point here. Go call your parents/grandparents/kids. Realize how incredibly quickly everything changes. And be so grateful for what you have. I get sulky that my summer feels almost over and I haven’t gotten this done and whatever isn’t going my way. Don’t lose sight of what really matters.

I don’t have it in me to proof or reread or whatever right now. So, take this for whatever you will. But be grateful.

*Don’t scatter ashes somewhere no one lives that is inconvenient to get to. No one will visit, and that will make them sad.

Where does summer go?

This weekend was a busy one of hosting several out of town guests, buying tile (!) and trying to sort out a few other details on the bathroom. (Expect an epic vanity-search post once I actually find one. I’m trying not to bore you.)

I made a big list by room of all the stuff I hope to get done with the rest of my summer, which feels like it is quickly slipping away (I have two more weekends I’m actually here for! Two!)

In other news, I have three fun birthday presents to tell you about:

From my dad

I can do basically two kinds of writing, and only one of them consistently turns out card worthy. I am so so excited to play with this book.

From my Dad

This is BURNING A HOLE IN MY FLOOR (like pocket? Get it?) and I cannot wait to stencil the front hallway. I’ve got two weekends before school starts–we need to talk schedule. Day trip maybe? I also need to put a final coat on the buffet (I got new paint custom mixed–by which I mean the guy added more pigment and very nicely tried to get it closer to what I want. Worth a shot.) so it seems like I could do both at once, with the same tools (they use the same tools, I’m not just being ridiculous).

And the last one I don’t have a picture of yet. But its this:

From http://ourhumbleabowedblog.com/ because she is possibly the coolest person ever

You can go click on the picture and read her post now. Amanda’s will be cooler than mine anyhow. That’s just how it is.

For my birthday I held my own ice cream social. It all looked super cute, and I don’t think I took pictures (maybe someone else did? I will have to see.) And then I told everyone it was time for them to make my birthday present. And they were all like, “huh?”.

And then (true story) my mother got out the paints and I pulled out the pad of watercolor paper I picked up in Colorado (from my grandma’s things, with an unfinished picture she was working on) and I showed people the picture above, explained I was going to cut up their artwork, asked them to use my colors (some obeyed better than others) and told them to go for it. Without children, it was the best I could do. Expect more when I get it done and hung.

But mostly I look at pictures of vanities on the internet, with occasional trips to look at things in stores. Its thrilling. But I hope to have them start within two weeks, so I am making progress!

Are you getting your summer projects done?