Monday, September 30, 2013

Bundles of Babies

Times have changed in the 25 +/- years since I birthed three babies, but babies overall are the same as they have always been. Keep them full and dry and warm and they're pretty much happy as clams. Which brings me to another random bundling...
As I wrapped our newest grandbaby, April, in her Swaddle Me one piece bundle thingie just now, and as she literally instantly quieted and went to sleep, she reminded me of a little papoose.  Maybe those native Americans were on to something...
By way of explanation, I am staying for the week with my middle daughter and her husband and their new baby for her first week out of hospital, although they both are such naturals I don't think they need much help...
April is our second grandbaby...Grandson Jack was born just six weeks ago, on August 16 to our youngest daughter, Laurin and her husband, Eric. I was blessed to be able to spend a week with them in Kettering, OH back then as well.  Retirement came just at the right time. :)
I remember swaddling being popular when our girls were born back in the 80's. There was this one 'mature' nurse in the newborn ward of the hospital who could whip the blanket around the baby in like 3 seconds flat, forming a perfect, invincible swaddle. Larry affectionately called that nurse 'Sarge'.  lol... I still view swaddling as a 2-person art, an art that I still have yet to perfect.
Until I master the art, I will be thankful for the clever person(s) who invented Snuggle Me and all the similar garments.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How Do You Eat An Elephant?

As I blogged about earlier, when we decided it was time to move forward with our retirement plans, including a downsize and a move, the thought was overwhelming. I almost had to turn my 'no stage fright' title into a mantra for my emotional support.

As I mentioned, I used my dog-eared room planner to organize the condo space.  I then turned to my project management skills as I began to look at this transition like any other project I've managed. The compulsive me made a Gantt chart and got to work. The chart showed all the tasks that needed done in preparation for our move, including things like room-by-room decluttering, packing, condo kitchen remodel, winterizing the hot tub, selecting a realtor, listing the house, contacting an auctioneer, contacting a mover, etc. The chart also showed how long each task would take and where it fit in the scheme of the move.

We decided the condo kitchen remodel would best be done before we actually moved into the space, so we went ahead and designed the new space and set the contractors to work.

We turned our weekly trips to Columbus to monitor the remodel progress into opportunities to take carloads of things down with us, thus easing the burden when moving day would finally come.

In the meantime, we continued to find homes for the things that could be rehomed. Once donations had left the building, the basement was turned into two discreet zones: condo and auction. Those items from the condo zone that would easily fit into the car would be taken during one of those regular trips down to Columbus.

We contacted a realtor, mover and auctioneer in early December. We chose to go with the realtor and movers who we had previous experience with as they both had a proven track record with us. We had already decided we would move out with our pets before listing the house. We had enough furniture being left behind that the house would be staged adequately and not appear empty.

This decision to vacate first was made based on previous experience with trying to show a house while having pets... something I would highly discourage anyone from doing if at all possible due to the logistics involved.

Moving day was set for early January. This would give us one last holiday in the 'old' house, with lots of space for all. It was a bittersweet Christmas for our family but we all agreed that being closer to two of our daughters and their growing families was well worth the sacrifice.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sounds, Sights and Smells

Planes, trains and ...marching bands

I have said matter where life takes me for home base, I hope that I can always hear at least these two sounds from my home...the sound of a high school band practicing/playing and the sound of a train whistle.

Both of these bring back pleasant memories that are very soothing to me.

As for the band requirement, all three daughters were in marching band and/or drill team.  Our youngest daughter was in a competitive marching band for two years.  I've always maintained that band should be considered an athletic sport for the amount of skill and practice that it requires of its members - and competition band only served to cement that thought for me.  But that's another day's topic...

Practice typically began early for the girls - well before school returned to session.  And hearing the sounds of the band practicing as they echoed across the hills was very comforting to me, for whatever reason.  The two high schools that I attended were never big enough to have a full scale band, so I didn't get to experience the fun and bonding that came with being part of such a group.  But I do know that the kids seem to have plenty of good memories from their experiences. And so did I, as a band parent.  There were times that the band, including the halftime show, was the only reason I went to the football games.  I have since come to love football, especially college football with my OSU Buckeyes, but that, too, is another day's topic...

The train whistle sound is a little easier to track (no pun intended) for me.  As a very young child, my newly divorced mom took my 6 year old self, and my 7 year old sister and 5 year old brother on our very first train ride. It wasn't the train at the zoo, or at nearby Idlewild Park, but rather a full blown, cross-country trek to the west coast from the train station in Pittsburgh PA to visit 'California Grandma', my maternal grandfather's Pasedena mother.  It would be the first of three such rides - another one to CA and the third one to Michigan (which seemed like just a little jaunt when compared to the days-long trip across the US to California!)  I don't remember a lot about that first train ride, but I do have Mom's grainy, bumpy 8 mm movies from the trip to bring back some memories.  And I remember the whistle, mostly because we heard a lot of it in the 3 or so days it took to traverse the country.

California Grandma (known by her birth certificate as Catherine Cooney) was a little whisp of a white-haired Irish woman who lived in a little 3 bedroom ranch in Pasadena, her home complete with backyard lemon and fig trees and something totally foreign to my young mind - an in ground sprinkler system.  I remember her stepping out on her front landing in the morning and turning on the magical sprinklers that would send water in every direction - just waiting for the three of us little ones to run through and squeal.  And I remember that Uncle Junie (so named because he was Ralph 'Junior') worked at the nearby Budweiser Brewery.  Uncle Junie never married and so lived with California Grandma.  He walked with a noticeable limp from what we were told was a bone infection that he received when he was kicked in the leg by a classmate as a young boy.  This injury provided the much needed tale of caution that we ALWAYS heard if (when) the Leight children ever dared to kick one another.  

Another memory that has stayed with me is that California Grandma had a COLOR TV!  I recall watching the NBC peacock come on and I remember seeing the test pattern that would appear at the end of the night's TV programming. Thinking back, I don't think I would've been able/allowed to stay up that late to watch late night TV, but it must've been our adjusting to the east coast/west coast time difference (and maybe a touch of spoiling by California Grandma). I also associate the scent of Dial soap with visits to her house.  Funny how sounds and scents and sights trigger such memories from long ago.  

Here in Ontario, OH we can hear both band and train sounds handily.  We live less than a mile from the high school, where we can easily hear not only the band practicing, but also the sounds of Friday night football and the halftime shows. And a train runs close enough to be able to catch the whistles, particularly on those nights that I happen to be up around 3 am.  And luckily, there are trains that still travel very close to (well, within a mile of) our Columbus condo, so that requirement is met. Not so sure about the band down there, but since Columbus is home to The Ohio State University and The Best Damn Band In The Land, I think I might be able to get my fill of marching band practice music as well.

Your turn:
Any childhood sounds or smells or sights that bring back pleasant memories to you?

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 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 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?