Tuesday, August 27, 2013


The recent birth of Baby Jack, and the pending birth of Baby April have served to light a fire under our plans to move out of the house and into the condo - bringing us over an hour closer to both Ohio daughters and their growing families.  We now have a solid plan, complete with Gantt chart (being the organizer that I am, I prepared a project chart to keep us on track).

We've decided to make January 2014 our target date for moving to Columbus.  That gives us 4 months to clear out the clutter, stage this house, move our things to the condo and get this house up for sale in time for the acclaimed 'Spring Market'.  We've decided to willingly violate the 2-pet minimum after being told by a condo board member that we 'wouldn't be the first' to do so.  And with a 17.5 year old cat and a 14.5 year old dog on that list, I don't think we'll be in violation for long, if at all.

We accomplished one goal this week by purchasing a new master bedroom suite.  My intent was to maximize the amount of storage in the new set, while minimizing the footprint, since the new master bedroom is a little smaller than our current one.  I think we did pretty good by selecting a bed that has 4 large underbed storage drawers (two on each side) and is flanked on each side by a panel nightstand and an 82" tall x 24" wide x 17" deep storage cabinet.  We opted for this 'wall' of furniture look vs. buying separate dressers.  This will give us maximum storage with minimum floor space being consumed.  Since the tall cabinets have 5 shelves and only one (bottom) drawer, I am also going to purchase nice baskets from World Market to organize the shelves.
Baskets for new bedroom storage cabinets
The furniture is scheduled to be delivered next week - I'll post pics then.  Our current suite, Valencia
from Value City Furniture, will stay here while the house is being shown, and then will either be sold with the house to the new owners, or be part of the auction that we'll have before closing.

The rest of this week and next will be devoted to the basement project - decluttering, boxing the things to take with us and generally reorganizing the storage and living spaces down there.

Your turn:
Any ideas for maximizing space in your home?  Do you have a favorite piece of furniture?

Monday, August 26, 2013


The biggest challenge to this move is that we are having to downsize from our present 4000+ sf, 2 story w/ finished basement, 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath, 3 car garage on a 1/2 acre lot to a 1200 sf, 2nd floor, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, one car garage condo... 32 years of accumulated 'stuff' is a lot stuff!!  But you know what they say about how to eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  And that is exactly my approach to this task as well.

I started with my trusty 'With House In Hand'  planner/organizer. It's the same one I bought 28 years ago when we were building our first home.  I've used it each and every time we've moved to help figure out where our furniture will go before the actual move.  With every furniture or accessory purchase I cut out new templates for the new stuff and purge any of the old pieces.  This move is no different, so I just drew out all of the spaces in the condo and started to decide what could stay, what needed to go and what needed to be replaced.

Examples of what will stay: we have two twin beds in one of the bedrooms here.  I always wanted a guest room with two beds, and these are a recent purchase that I really like.  The head and foot boards are iron and the mattresses are super comfortable.  I like the versatility of two twins - you can leave them separate or push them together for a nice king.  They will stay and work well in the guest bedroom at the condo.  We also have 7 cherry bookshelves in our current library that will fit perfectly in the third bedroom at the condo (which will be our den).  I have a powder coated baker's rack with tile serving area that I love, and I've decided that this will fit perfectly on the covered deck as a serving piece/plant rack.

What needs to go is a lot of stuff! Years and years of memories and collections.  And family things.   Including a pool table, fooz ball table, Nordic Track, a whole set of leather furniture from the current family room, a dining room set, lots of deck furniture (we're going from a monster deck of about 800 sf to a modest 10 x 10), our 12' Christmas tree, closets full of clothes, tools, pictures, books, and on and on...  We've already started this process by selling our third car (bye bye Mini Cooper) and our riding lawn mower.  We replaced the large zero-turning mower with a push mower now that we're retired and have the time to push mow.  We figure we can sell the push mower easily when it's time to move.  Also in the same category is a ton of lawn/garden stuff, including a snow blower, leaf blower, edger, etc.

And things that need to be replaced include our current master bedroom suite which is WAY too big for the condo master.  While this makes me sad (I LOVE our current set), I know that I would hate the crowded feeling of jamming all the pieces into a too-small space, so the set will have to be replaced.  I'm sure we'll find someone who will love it the way we do.  Also on the list of replacements is a new dining room set - the one we have in the condo is an antique that has outlived its usefulness for us and is ready to make someone else happy - and the one we have here is country white, which will be a tough match for the ebony arts and crafts style cabinetry in the new kitchen.  I'm hoping to get a simple craftsman style table and chairs and hutch that will fit the bill for us.

So little by little, room by room, we are looking at everything with a more critical eye.  The whole process is good for us, and also good for others...lol...I have a list of a dozen or so charities that have gotten donated clothes, books, knickknacks and furniture from us already, and we've still got lots to go.  I've also gotten good at selling on eBay - a nice way to get rid of things you know you have value, particularly if they are small and easily shipped.

My plan is to declutter and downsize first, all the while separating what will go with us to Columbus and what can stay here to be sold.  At some point, we'll get an auctioneer in to get rid of the furniture and appliances that are not practical to sell on eBay or Craigslist.

Like you eat an elephant...one bite at a time...

Now you:
Are you a 'saver'?  How do you go about downsizing and/or decluttering?  What's your best advice for making this job easier?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Condo Remodeling

Our plan for the last several (well, almost 10) years has been to relocate to Columbus (about 70 miles south of here) once we retire.  We have a condo down there that we bought when our daughters were students at The Ohio State University.  They all lived there at one time or another, sometimes with each other, and finally, our middle daughter and her hubby lived there for a few months after they were married and before they bought a home in neighboring Marysville.

Now that we have retired and the condo is officially empty, we have undertaken the fun (really!) task of remodeling.  Mostly the kitchen, but we'll also be changing out lighting fixtures and fans and doing a general spruce up before moving down there.

Being the foodie that I am, I am totally in my glory at the thought of being able to redesign the kitchen to how I want it to be.  We're not really doing a knock down, dragout remodel.  The appliance locations are not changing - but new cabinets, countertops, appliances, backsplash, sink, faucet and lighting will make it seem like a totally new place.

Both of us have manufacturing backgrounds and see the value in buying American wherever possible.  We were quite excited when we found out that the cabinets we selected are made in the USA by Elkay.  They're Innermost brand, carried by Home Depot.  And since the cabinets are the lion's share of the budget, we feel quite happy that not only are we supporting American manufacturing, but the cabinets were actually lower in price than the second quote we got.  The other cabinets would have been delivered unassembled from China.  Here's a picture of the cabinet front, but ours will be a black stain (onyx).  They will be made of maple.

Here is the hardware:

Cabinet Pull
Cup pull for drawers
 I'm going for a Shaker/Arts&Crafts look - here's something from my inspirational file.

Other 'Made in the USA' components to our new kitchen include a Delta Touch20 faucet and a single bowl, undermount Elkay stainless steel sink.
Delta Touch20 faucet
We're also adding an instant hot water dispenser - something I've gotten quite used to - it's great for making tea, cocoa, oatmeal, broth, etc., without having to run the microwave.
InSinkerator instant hot water dispenser
The appliances will all be Maytag - also made in the USA.   More about those and some other details later.

Your turn:
Do you have a dream kitchen?  What would it look like?  Any must haves for you?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Green Smoothies...

Thanks to a former co-worker, I have become hooked on green smoothies.

At my initial introduction, I must admit that my reaction to putting kale or spinach or other green leafy things into a drink (other than the occasional celery stalk in my beloved bloody mary) had me retching.  But, like so many other things in this life, you must first try it before you knock it.

And so began my love affair with green smoothies.

My first step, though, was to buy a NutriBullet.   I got mine at Bed Bath & Beyond with a 20% off coupon, which would be my recommended way to go if you're looking at the most inexpensive way to get a new NutriBullet. I'm sure you can also find used ones on eBay if you're in the market, but I'll leave that up to you. I went with the blender/extractor-type concept rather than a juicer for a couple of reasons:

  1. ease in cleaning
  2. no loss of fiber
  3. cost

Now for the good stuff...

Nearly every smoothie I make starts with a handfull of fresh organic spinach.   I have been known to use frozen in a pinch, but I prefer fresh.   Others like kale, but I find the taste of raw kale in my smoothies to be overpowering, I'd rather eat my kale in salads.  I sometimes also throw in a couple of pieces of fresh organic carrot, not even peeled.  To that, I add whatever fruit is in season.  Cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, strawberries, blueberries, bananas - you name it, it can become a smoothie.  I also have used frozen fruit: berries, mangoes, etc.  Freezing is also a good use for bananas on the way out, by the way.  Just peel and chunk them and toss into the freezer.  You can put them on a tray or plate in the freezer first before bagging them to make pulling them out easier.  I also know people who put avocado into their smoothies, but I am an avocado nut and would much rather have my avocado straight up so I can enjoy the taste, rather than hidden in a smoothie...

As far as nutritional add ins, here's where you can get crazy!  Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts), seeds (chia, sesame, flax), berries (acai, goji), herbs (mint, parsley, dill, tarragon), spices (cinnamon, turmeric, pepper), cacao nubs or powder, yogurt or milk (including rice, almond, hemp)...get the idea?  There is a ton of research out there about the benefits of these add ins - do your own due diligence and you can concoct your own special drink for whatever ails ya!  I keep a basket on the counter to corral my 'extra' ingredients and spare parts for my NutriBullet, and when it's smoothie time, I just go there for inspiration.

Here's what's inside:

And here's this morning's smoothie:  Fresh spinach and peaches, frozen mango:

I apologize if this sounded like an infomercial for NutriBullet -that wasn't my intent, but rather to introduce you to the wonderful world of green smoothies!  And if you have little ones running around - what a great way to sneak extra nutrition into their daily lives - and with cool green stuff!

How about you?
Do you imbibe in smoothies?  What do you like to put into yours?  What health benefits do you look forward to?

Saturday, August 10, 2013


I love a good deal!  I recently returned a dress to Kohl's - it was one that I bought thinking I would wear it to daughter Erin's rehearsal dinner in June on the Cape, but I decided to wear something else, so the dress was just hanging around with no purpose.  So I took it back.  And got a store credit.

This week I got a 30% off discount flyer for Kohl's and I've been antsy ever since to go see what good deals I could snag between the coupon and my store credit!  Hubby wanted to look at some pants, so off we headed tonight after church and a light dinner at Panera.

I went straight to the maxi dresses - I wanted to see what they had that could span a couple of seasons.  My first pass through the racks left me underwhelmed, but on my second look, I was drawn to a nice black and white Apt. 9 number, but it was a PL (Petite Large).  Well, at 5'9", I am anything but petite.  But one thing I have learned in my 50+ years is that I can find some great deals on things that  might be marked incorrectly.  :)  Not saying that this dress was improperly marked, but it was definitely long for a 'petite'.  Which is probably why it was clearanced down to $24 from $60!  And with my 30% coupon, it was a mere $16.80 - a 72% markdown.

I am so excited to wear it - and with a sweater, it will work perfectly for fall as well.

Hubby didn't find anything he really wanted in the pants department, but I did also find some uber cute summerwear on clearance in the baby department - so I picked up a couple of outfits for the new babies in a size that they hopefully be able to wear when we vacation together next June.

Summer 2014 vacation wear for Jack and April
A good shopping trip is a thing of beauty...

How about you?  Have any great shopping trips or tips to share?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Yogurt...one of life's little pleasures...

So, true to my mantra of DIY, we make our own yogurt.  For several reasons...

1. It's way cheaper
2. I know what ingredients are used
3. I like to do stuff like this!

Here's how we do it:

Take one or one half gallon of 2% milk (you can use any kind of milk, really, but 2% is our compromise). Shake it a bit if it's sat for a while.  Pour the entire amount into a crock pot set on high.  Cover with a lid and wait. Keep a thermometer handy and every half hour or so, stir and check the temp - it takes a couple hours to get to 180°, which is the 'magic' number for yogurt.

Once it gets to 180°, turn off the crockpot and let it sit again.  You can take the lid off now if you want - it helps it to cool down faster. You can also stir it every now and then for the same reason - it cools faster. Keep the thermometer handy yet.  Once the milk hits 110°, it's time to move to the next step.

Turn your oven on to 200° (or the lowest temp it will hold).  Then, to the cooled milk, add your starter, which is about 1/2 cup of plain yogurt.  It should be yogurt with 'live cultures' written on the container, or you can use some leftover from your last batch of homemade yogurt, which is what we do (but I'll bet if you're reading this, you most likely don't have any leftover homemade...yet...lol).  You can also add some powdered milk at this time, but this is purely optional and I don't do it if I don't have any hanging around.  But if you do have some and you want to add it, you can put in about 1/2 cup.

Now put the lid back on and set the lidded crockpot liner into the oven and shut the oven off.  Don't forget to do this! If the oven has a light, turn it on - it will help keep the temperature nice and warm in there.  Now, let this sit for about 12 hours (it can be as long as 24, but who can wait that long??)  The  longer it sits, the more tart and thick it will be.

After waiting, take out the crockpot and voila! you have yogurt!  You can stop here, but if you have a couple more hours, it's great to make it into Greek yogurt, which is just yogurt that has been strained of the whey, and therefore, much thicker and creamier.

You'll need a strainer and some cheesecloth, or a muslin bag, which is what we use. Ours is the one that we use when we brew beer, but they're easy enough to make out of a piece of unbleached muslin sewn into a bag about 12" square or so.  Put the strainer, lined with cheesecloth or the muslin bag over the edges of a bowl or pot (6-8 qt. works fine).  Ladle the yogurt into the strainer/bag.  If you're using a strainer, just let it sit.  If you've got a bag, tie it up and hang it over the bowl to drain for about 2-4 hours.  I loop the tie over a cabinet pull (see below) and just forget it for a bit.

I haven't found much use for the whey - there are websites that say you can make cheese from it, but I have not been successful at that (let me know if you are - I'd love to know the secret!).  But we do have dogs, and one of them in particular (our senior, Shadow) loves to have a little whey over his kibble as an enticement to eat.  Sometimes he needs a little convincing.  :)

Once the yogurt has drained to a nice consistency, just transfer it from the strainer/bag to a container and refrigerate.  One gallon of milk makes about 2 quarts of yummy greek yogurt and 2 quarts of whey.  All for the cost of a gallon of milk!  'Whey' better than what you'd pay if you bought it at the store, and 'whey' better knowing you made it yourself!!

A hint on timing:  The whole process from start to finish (greek) takes about 20 hours.  It works for us to start around 6 pm.  By about 10 pm or so, the milk is going into the oven for an overnight stay.  And by 10 am or so, it's being strained for a few hours.  Finished product is ready by early afternoon.

And as a side note, I've taught hubby how to make yogurt, so he no longer has to 'hint' to me that we are running low!  :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I'm Baaccckkkk...lol...

Well, we've been retired for over 7 months now (actually only about 4 since I did some contracting for my previous employer for a few months after I left from full time employment).  Here's an update of what's been going on...

Our pet sitting business is growing rather nicely.  We've actually turned down some work when it has overlapped activities that we had previously planned for ourselves.  The way I look at it, if you have the foresight to schedule in advance, we'll have the courtesy to hold the date.  But last minute requests, which I consider to be a week or less notice, may be risky for you.  After all, we are retired. :)
Tudor and Tasha, two of our clients' furbabies

We've also been putting quite a bit of effort into downsizing by picking one room/area of the house at a time and attacking it with gusto.  This week's project has been our study.  There are 7 sets of bookshelves in the study, along with a grand piano and a low, long filing cabinet.  I've purged 5 of the 7 units (hubby is in charge of his own and I still have one to go).  I've gotten rid of about 300 books - most of them how-to, but also a fair number of novels and cookbooks.  The way I see it, unless it's a very special book, I can either borrow it from the library (if it's a novel) or google what I need to know (if it's a how-to/self-help).  Not even my cookbooks were spared.  I saved the ones that I know I use and that were special gifts, but all the ones that I've collected over the years have gone on to better homes. We have a local branch of the American Association of University Women that got a boatload of them, and the rest will go to the Friends of the Library.  Here's a picture of the ones that are headed to the Friends of the Library.
More books for Friends of the Library

I plan on taking the bookshelves with us when we move, but I also know that our storage space at the condo will be very limited, and I've got other plans for shelf space, namely my photo albums and scrapbooking supplies.

And here's another picture of my neatened up cookbook bookshelves and the other side of the room (hubby's shelves are on the far left...).

After the purge (hubby's books on left)
Cookbooks that made the cut

I still need to attack the file cabinet, but it's only Wednesday...

I should add that we are on baby watch - our youngest daughter, Laurin, and her husband, Eric are expecting their first baby (our first grandbaby) any day now and our plan is to head to southwestern OH to be there for Jack's birth, God willing.  So some of the cleaning might have to be postponed for a few days while we welcome the new little one.  More about that later!