Giving Yourself Permission

Bella Cat is having A Day.

After the last couple of days full of rain and noise outside, plus some Serious Playtime inside, today Bella can be found in her spot by the window in the Library, one paw draped across her eyes, dozing.

She is tired. In need of quiet. And who could blame her?

I find myself envying the ease at which she takes on her own self care. She is very capable of announcing when she needs a cuddle and a hug – something she has had a lot of lately. But there are times when enough is enough and she finds a nice quiet spot to just be.

I think we could all take a lesson from such a cat, or dog if you are lucky enough to have one around.

So many things we do are by habit. They are the routines we live by, or at least attempt to. 😉

Sometimes, however, those habits are not fulfilling, not pleasing, not even enjoyable. A few simply are not necessary at all.

As we enter the Holiday Season it is well worth rethinking some of those habits, aka: ‘traditions’. “But we always …”

Be honest, those last three words just popped into your head and/or out of your mouth, right?

I know. Been there, done that. Really.

Habits and traditions can be fraught with all sorts of emotional landmines. They don’t even need a pandemic to emphasize them.

What would it be like to have one holiday season without all, or less of, the drama and trauma and stress?

The funny thing about traditions is that many were started not by a choice but by a need. There is an old story about how every Thanksgiving just had to include Great Granny’s ham made in Just The Right Pan. The grandkids had no idea why, they just went along with it for, well, decades before someone asked about it. Turns out the extremely special pan was the only one that the original ham would fit in.

When I was growing up, my mom and her sisters hosted the Christmas gathering at each home. They each took on a year with everyone meeting at that house. There were lots of people (adults & kids) around for an insane 48 hours and then people went home to meet at the next aunt’s home the next year, etc. This made sense in a way to keep the holiday together but after the kids grew up and people passed away, the tradition also died out.

What was served never changed, either. No matter the health issues or age or whatever. The Meal, huge as it was, never changed.

That couldn’t fly far with some of the food allergies and other health issues around today.

Whatever else this year has provided, it has given us opportunities to revisit the things we do, or wish we did.

So why not take the opportunity to give yourself permission to make a change or two and see how that goes? Want to try a new recipe? How about setting up the tree earlier or later, or not at all? Why not rearrange the furniture?

It might seem strange at first, but with each tentative step, you will discover what does and does not work for you.

The reality is this is your life and you have the right to choose how you live it. If you want your space to be more comfortable for you, it is up to you do make that happen. If you don’t want to do something just because it is a tradition you don’t particularly enjoy, you can choose not to do it. If your family wants to change the way you celebrate (or not) your family can make those choices. No one else should have a say in that, or at the very least, very little.

Give yourself permission to live the life you want to live in the way you want to live it. You might discover a lot less stress and frustration.

Reflections

You are reading this after Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. From my perspective prior to the holiday, I am contemplating the year that has passed and looking forward into 2021.

To the surprise of many (most?) of us, we’ve made it this far. Back in March there was concern that we wouldn’t. Many didn’t.

I’ve often found myself thinking about our ancestors and how they addressed situations that they had never experienced before. Some came across great distances just to get to our shores and start new lives. Some found themselves crossing the continent to start over in a new place. None knew with any certainty that they would survive, let alone succeed. Many did neither.

I’ve heard it said that you don’t know your own strength until you go through difficult times. I find that I have to agree.

Life is not guaranteed to be easy. There are always things that happen to turn what has been routine and potentially mundane upside down. Perhaps Humans need that to inspire them to move forward and grow?

What I do know on this cold and rainy November day is that there is a lot to be thankful for. There is something to be looked forward to. It may not be what we would prefer, but still, there is Something.

It is easy to get caught up in the angst and negativity that abounds. I’ve always maintained that the negative emotions are addictive – possibly more so than positive emotions. I think, however, that now is a good time to take a few minutes to look around – make a focused effort – to see the positive. Make that a habit.

This year has been full of opportunities to see and do things that we never made time, had time, thought about or even attempted before. We’ve discovered things that we can do – things that many of us didn’t believe we were capable of.

We have rediscovered ourselves.

Like pioneers of old, we are finding out what we are made of and building on that foundation to make a better future.

One step at a time.

Check It Out: Food Freedom

Is stress taking over your efforts to control your weight and your health? Are you finding yourself facing the Holiday Season, and all the food, with trepidation? Mind Over Munch announced a new, free, course offered on her website and via YouTube that addresses the way we approach food.

If you are looking for ways to better your relationship with food and make progress in your path to healthful eating, this could be an excellent resource.

All the information is in the video and the links are in the description box below it.

Game Shows: A Few Thoughts

Or, I tried not to think very much about the passing of Alex Trebek and failed. Miserably.

There is an odd sense in our house lately. Alex Trebek, the faithful visitor every Monday through Friday when we watch Jeopardy!, passed away and while we can see the taped games, there is a touch of bittersweet where before there was none.

Oddly, I have the same sense when I watch the original Password on Buzzr. I grew up watching Allen Ludden host that show and, in later years, altered versions of the game.

Oddly, I don’t have quite the same response watching Gene Rayburn on Match Game. When I watch (rarely) one of those mid 1970’s shows, my initial reaction is “Gene, you need a haircut.” <shrug>

Ah, but Trebek and Ludden presided over shows that celebrated knowledge. Curiosity. Adventure. Fun. They encouraged us to actually think, not just observe.

One of the things that always surprises me is discovering that I know something I had no idea I know. Those connect the dots moments when the parts of the clue come together and – voila! – magic happens.

The day I learned that Ross Martin, one of our premier character actors, did the New York Times Crossword in ink, it blew my mind. In Ink! It takes courage to do that. Work the Times Crossword. In ink. Take your pick. 🙂

Both Trebek and Ludden shared a passion for their games and a joy working with contestants.

If you want to do a bit more time travel, visit What’s My Line with John Charles Daly at the helm. The panelists were often witty and urbane but the amazing Dorothy Kilgallen was awesome. She was the one to watch because she rarely missed anything.

Who would have thought that what was basically Twenty Questions to guess a person’s occupation could be such a lively and entertaining show? Even today.

I feel as if I’m avoiding facing the fact that these people I admire and enjoy are but memories.

I am grateful for the opportunity to watch their work and learn from their example. There can be great joy in games. There can be great joy is learning, even by accident.

Fall In Love With Your Home Again

I recently read a piece in a home decor magazine written by someone who had decided to sell the family home since interest rates were way down and more space might be nice, etc. As the author prepped the place for sale, doing all those clear out, clean up, and make pretty jobs, s/he was surprised to discover that moving to a new home really wasn’t something s/he wanted to do.

You see, as a result of clearing out the excess stuff, clearing collection spots (and we all have them) getting rid of furniture that they no longer wanted, and reorganizing spaces they discovered a home they really loved. Again.

I’ve been on a multi year clear out quest and I can attest to the truth of the author’s experience. We tend to forget why we chose the home in the first place.

I recently reclaimed my Library/Craft Room and it is my favorite place in the house. Again. My kitchen is going through a bit of a renaissance; having cleaned and reorganized it is a bit more spacious, a true feat considering its postage stamp size. I’m looking at colors and contemplating window treatments – something I’d given up years ago.

Perhaps the point of all of this is to reclaim what we loved about our homes when we first moved in? Think back to those plans for updating the garden or repainting the living room. Why not do a bit of planning for that now? Granted, the weather may not be conducive, but if you take the time to work out all the details, when you do get a chance to do the job, you’ll have the opportunity to really take it to the next level.

I’m still pondering my deck garden and I’m considering adding solar lights. It has been years – really – since the deck was more than just a place to get from the driveway to the door. I’d like to add plants and Gussie it up a bit, if only for me. And why not?

DIY Danie has partnered with Behr Paint on several projects. She has links to the 2021 Colour Trends Palette which might give you some ideas and inspiration as you contemplate updating your home. The link will take you to the video and information on the paint and her project.

If this is your first attempt at a home project, getting started is pretty easy. Dig out a notebook, grab a measuring tape and browse magazine and Pinterest. Daydream a bit – what would happen if… ? Don’t be afraid to collect paint swatches and pictures of rooms or areas you like. Samples are the best way to see what colors will look like in an area. Personally, I plan on collecting some that I can use to update some bookcases and shelving. Small quantities, small cost, huge impact. 🙂

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take the time you need to find what works for you. It is your home, after all.

Regroup, Refresh, Restart

I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been a millennia-long and not nearly as interesting as it should have been. Not to say it hasn’t had its moments.

Like many people, I’m trying to find a new path, a new way of being. I’m looking for interest catching things that get me engaged. The same old, same old just isn’t enough right now.

I am enjoying and appreciating content from people who are actively looking for ways to find positives, or at least an upward direction.

Cathy Hay has been offering thoughts on self care and self healing that, for me at least, provide not only a sense of calm, but a positive vibe that is sorely needed right now.

I’m looking to my U.K. folks, like Mr. Carrington, Luke Catleugh, and Hermione Chantal to show me not only their daily experiences but the areas they visit. I’m still keeping up with “Escape To The Country” as a way of seeing the U.K. that isn’t as a tourist.

The amazing Mary Fons is currently in the U.K. with her husband, Eric. Thanks to Mary’s blog and posts, I am able to get a different view of the country from someone whose perspective is one I admire and enjoy.

And, as if there is an overload of U.K. content, I’m once again enjoying Australia via Better Homes & Gardens.

The armchair tourist aside, I’m also looking at crafters from many areas who bring their own personal touches to different projects. I recently discovered the Quilting Marine who took up the craft after 20 years of service and a need to battle PTSD. The paper crafters I’ve been following are bringing some interesting ideas to us, many using tools that are relatively new to a lot of people.

Over on the book table, I’ve been enjoying new additions to ongoing series. Thanks to Audible’s expanded programs, I now have loads (tons?) of free books in additions to my monthly credits. It is a great way to stretch the budget, discover new authors and continue enjoying great storytelling.

In the kitchen, I’m working to get out of the rut of the same old, same old. While the budget might not be unlimited, the opportunities might be. When I inventoried my library this past summer, it became obvious that I have a huge (!) collection of recipes, ideas, options, and opportunities. I want to take advantage of that.

I keep coming back to the old Julie and Julia blog. I think the idea of focusing on one particular cookbook or chef interesting, but I haven’t quite made up my mind if I want to go that route or not.

I do own Mastering The Art of French Cooking (Volumes 1 & 2) and find the work not only amazing but homier than many might think. I also have a couple of Jacques Pepin’s books, with a similar thought to those books. This doesn’t begin to include the other volumes of cookery books, magazines, pamphlets, etc. that I’ve collected – and actually used – that I want to revisit.

Speaking of food, Mind Over Munch has been looking at personal relationships with food. The newsletters have been thought provoking, something that I might not have seen, or said, prior to this year.

It all comes together in what I am perceiving as an opportunity to revisit connections to life in ways that enhance and encourage, rather than to just get by.

I’m thinking that as we work our way through 2020, we are presented with opportunities to make sure that the way we are living our lives is one that provides the most opportunity to be happier, more content, more productive in ways that are fulfilling.

What do you think? I’d like to know.

Thoughts on Kitchen Organization

Or, Things I’ve Learned Through Trial and Error

I’ve come to the realization that ‘organization’ is a never ending process. It isn’t a bad thing, it just never seems to actually come to a conclusion. Perhaps it would if I never used the space or items and everything was left to its own devices.

I was lucky enough to be raised by two people who had a lot of experience putting things in their proper places. My mother’s kitchens were well organized out of necessity – lack of space will do that, you know. When you don’t have airplane hangar-sized rooms full of custom cabinetry with fancy pull out drawers and shelves, you learn to make do with what you do have.

My father’s workspaces (he had quite a few) were textbook guides on the use of pegboard, drawers, counters and even hanging shelves. Hanging from the roof/ceiling. Walk into our multi-vehicle garage and you were met not only with the vehicles in their proper spaces, but back walls full of well organized, orderly accumulations of the materials that farmers and tinkerers used. Hanging from the roof were reams of pipe and lumber that would be used in projects along with bags of potatoes and onions that were harvested from the garden. The actual workshop was originally a single car garage that evolved into a workspace with a forge, space to weld, and accumulation of tools of pretty much every type and description. All stored in proper places in logical locations and easy to hand.

My own kitchen is what I refer to as ‘postage-stamp sized’ because, well, it is. I don’t have a lot of built in storage space, so I’ve had to learn to use what I could in the best manner possible. When I was able to add storage, I thought carefully about what I would use it for and how it could be maximized.

What I’ve learned can be summed up as follows:

What do you need -vs- what do you want.

There was a time when I would have loved to have a full set of Spode Christmas ware. Never mind that I had no place to store it, no way to pay for it, and really not much use for it as I didn’t host large family gatherings. On the other hand, I loved Fiestaware but the price tag for that actually did curl my hair.

Now I look at fulfilling my wishlist with dinnerware that makes me happy, doesn’t require a second mortgage, and can be used more often.

Multipurpose pieces save money and space.

A few years back I picked up a couple of sets of canisters with vacuum seals. These handy square shaped containers hold a variety of dry foodstuffs, take up the same space as far as footprints and are stackable. And did I mention that they were reasonably priced, too?

Their shape is important. They are all square. No round containers that leave an empty shelf area. I do have a set of containers that are also square but have rectangular pieces as well. These are also space users and stack well. Round containers take up space that can’t be used for storage.

I emphasize shape for a reason. A few months back I happened to see a self described decor expert showing off her newly restyled kitchen cabinets. Behind the doors she had proudly put up round containers with chalk labels for dried goods.

Now, I have no issue with either the round containers or the chalk labels. My issue comes with spending money on these items that are clearly decorative and will live behind closed doors. Where no one but the cook will ever see them and taking up space that could be used for other foodstuffs.

Interestingly enough, the next time we were treated to a view of the once again redecorated kitchen cabinets, the round containers with the chalk labels were no longer hidden away behind closed doors.

Ask yourself if you are inadvertently making your kitchen work more difficult.

Odd as it might seem, when we put things in places that require more steps or more work we make working in the kitchen more difficult. This might seem like a non-issue unless you are one who struggles to find any enjoyment in the kitchen to begin with.

It might be aesthetically pleasing to have the spice rack on the wall opposite the stove, but if you are constantly hiking across the room to get what you need to create a meal, at some point you are going to get tired of the trek and stop using it. Ditto for putting the clean dishes far from the sink and/or dishwasher.

I can always spot a house designed by someone who has never, ever done a load of laundry or purchased groceries. How? Easy. The garage is on the farthest side of the building away from the kitchen and the laundry is tucked into a spot away from easy access points like common walkways or stairs. This can be a lot of <cough> fun if you are dealing with bad weather, especially if the laundry is located in a garage that is separate from the house.

If you have a lot of laundry or a large load of groceries, that hike can be exhausting.

Now, you may not be able to do anything to move the laundry area or garage, but you can take charge of where things reside in your kitchen cabinets.

Cabinets are where the magic happens. Get yourself a set of containers for your dried goods. While boxes and bags seem simpler and easier, they take up a lot of room and don’t seal properly once opened, so you lose the food and the money you spent on the food when you have to toss it out. You don’t have to spend a lot, but be sure you do your research to find quality containers. i.e: Read the reviews.

Do you have a beverage area? Great! Put the mugs, glasses, whatevers nearby so you have what you need at hand. If you have a coffee / tea bar, gather all the fixings together. If you have a snack section, do the same and be sure to put things like napkins and serving bowls nearby.

Baking requires specific cooking pans and ingredients. Having them in the same general area makes the process easier – even more so if it is near the oven.

As you look at your space, think about what you use on a regular basis, what you use rarely and where you use things in general. That stand mixer is great for large projects but if you don’t use it every week maybe it can be put in a place that keeps it handy but doesn’t take up limited counter space? Mine is quite hefty, so I keep in mind that carrying it is a consideration.

If you have little ones around and are teaching them to set the table or put things away, look at your lower cabinets and consider putting things at their level.

If you have a cookbook collection, or are just starting one, consider making space in or near the kitchen. Handy for actually using the books to either cook or plan meals.

If you don’t use it or need it get rid of it.

This one is difficult, I know. But at the end of the day, getting rid of things you don’t use or need will save you time, space, and a lot of frustration when you need to find a place for something you do need and use. Besides, someone else might be looking for exactly what you don’t want!

There will always be some issue with storage and organization. The key is to make the best use of what you have and keep a sharp eye on how you utilize your space. Are you inadvertently sabotaging your cookery efforts? Are you not making the best use of the space you have? Do you already have a tool, box, container, thing that will help you resolve this issue?

With that food for thought, I will leave you to ponder. I hope this has been helpful. If so, please click on the “like” button below.

Unexpected Consequences

“Be careful what you ask for.”

I chuckle because the lesson was a difficult one to master – and, no, it hasn’t been.

I learned from a young age that people heard things you didn’t realize you’d said and if you weren’t careful they’d make things appear (Like Magic!) when you weren’t expecting them to.

I have a dear friend who spoils me rotten. Around 3 decades ago he discovered I preferred Sees Dark Chocolate Marzipan rather than just a box of Sees candies. (If you haven’t tried them, you don’t know what you are missing – and that applies to all of Sees candies) Further, he discovered that I absolutely love York Peppermint patties.

That Christmas I was overwhelmed with both. Really!

I used to be able to get Cadbury chocolates at Target. I say ‘used to’ because it was decades ago and I’m not sure when everything shifted.

Anyway, I mentioned that I would love some Cadbury chocolate again.

Well, wasn’t I surprised (YEP) when I discovered a neat package in my mailbox all the way from England stuffed with an assortment of Cadbury chocolates?

If you love chocolate and are looking for something particularly luscious, I urge you to check out what you might find. My friend found mine on Amazon. These are not high-end fancies, but regular bar types similar to what we might find in a candy counter in America. Also, these aren’t cheap, either. Keep that in mind.

On The Reading Table: The Lady Sherlock Books

Book 5: Murder on Cold Street

I found The Lady Sherlock Book series a couple of years ago and was immediately entranced. The series, written by Sherry Thomas, takes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters and turns them on their sides, inside out and upside down. The result is a collection of stories that are part masterful mystery, part exercise in exquisite language, and part deft storytelling. All written with the same attention to language and detail that Doyle gave us in his stories.

Where Doyle creates main characters with backgrounds that are revealed in an extremely limited manner, Thomas provides us with a coterie of people who are complicated, layered, interesting, and occasionally exasperating. Not to mention often funny*.

If you’ve read here for very long, you know I’ve been on a Holmes / Doyle kick for quite a while. In fact, I strongly recommend Stephen Fry’s audio collection of the entire Doyle canon.

If you enjoy a good mystery and want a story that is very much not a + b = c bland, I suggest you start with Sherry Thomas’ “A Study in Scarlet Women” being sure to buckle up for an adventure (or two) that you won’t soon forget. Be prepared; you will eagerly reach for the next volume in the series and continue through until you’ve inhaled the entire series so far.

Yes, you will want to read this series in order. While each book stands alone, there are a few story arcs that continue not only between books, but across the series.

*Charlotte’s sense of fashion is, um, colorful.

Murder on Cold Street” takes us into one of the most complicated and convoluted of Holmes’ cases. This time the client is Inspector Treadles’ wife, who is desperately searching for help to exonerate her husband who has been found locked in a room with two dead men. The Inspector isn’t talking about what actually happened and the information Holmes (and the reader) is initially given isn’t quite what it seems.

Narrated by Kate Reading, this book is a wonderful excursion into an adventure that is part mystery, part romance, part history, and lots of fun.

I’d love to hear what you think of the books. Please add a comment below.

If you like this post and have found it helpful (we all need recommendations for our reading tables), please click on the “like” button!

Make the Most Out of Limited Space

I’ve been following DIY Danie for a while now and have to say that I’m impressed at her creativity and expertise. This lady knows how to think through a project. Check out her blog at DIY In Progress or settle back to enjoy the adventure of her DIY projects over on YouTube.

Speaking of which, her current project is the creation of her brand new She Shack and it is Awesome! Check it out here:

Taking what is essentially an old garden tool shed and transforming it into efficient workspace is one thing, but upgrading it using paint and flooring is fabulous.

Danie has lots of other projects on her channel, so don’t be shy about checking out what she has to offer.

If you are contemplating updating one of your spaces or looking for ideas to make better use of your space, here are some things to think about:

  • What do you want to use the space for?
    • Will this be a high traffic area?
  • What kind of furniture is required?
    • Will you need to make special purchases OR can you create your own?
  • Will this be a multi-purpose area?
  • Is traffic flow an issue?
    • If you are mixing functions you may need to consider traffic patterns.
  • Do you need to make special arrangements for heating and cooling and lighting?
    • Some areas have full service, while others may need to upgrade or add services.

I hope this will inspire you to try your hand at something you’ve put on the back burner or thought you’d have to hire out to get done. If this post has been helpful, please let me know by clicking on the “Like” button and/or leaving me a comment. 🙂