Monday, January 26, 2015

52 Weeks to A Clean House: Week 5 - Refrigerator Wars

I once had a poster that listed 101 ways to say "No" to something. One of the excuses included "I am making a movie about the thing that grew in my refrigerator."  If you have ever lived with roommates at college, you know what a viable excuse that is.

Removing everything from my fridge so I can clean.

My sophomore year of college, the kitchen of my apartment took on a horrible odor. My roomies and I were stumped. We took out trash, cleaned, and tried to locate the smell. Finally, we realized it was coming from beneath the refrigerator. Someone had spilled milk in the fridge, and it had flowed down into the area beneath the appliance, rotted, and now smelled like vomit. It was incredibly awful, and I think the roommates who cleaned up this rank mess deserve a medal.

Today as I started to clean my refrigerator, I was happy to find it was not in such a messy state, My husband routinely helps put away groceries, and while he is at it, he wipes out refrigerator produce drawers and tosses old food, so the fridge stays in pretty good shape. Still, it was time for a thorough cleaning.

Squeaky clean refrigerator!  Now if I can get those shelves back in...

Here are my observations from today's kitchen cleaning:

  • I almost needed an engineering degree to remove refrigerator drawers and shelving, and get it all put back together.
  • Baking soda is my favorite kitchen cleaner for tackling grime.
  • It is a great victory when you remove expired food from your refrigerator AND get it in the trash can before garbage pick-up that day.
  • If you don't know how long something has been in your refrigerator, chances are it has been there too long.
  • It is best to clean the fridge before a trip to the grocery store...fewer items to take out!

I just have this week left to finish my kitchen, and things are looking good. I still have to clean a few miscellaneous cabinets and drawers, and the stove and oven.  Thankfully the oven is self-cleaning. And there are two clutter piles left for me to deal with, and one tiny landfill of papers by the toaster that belongs to my spouse, but I am pretty confident the kitchen will be clean and organized by January 31!

Fridge art, yes or no?

A last thought about refrigerators:  many organizing books say a fridge should have a clean exterior, meaning no items on the outside of your fridge. I admit the look is uncluttered, and it is easy to wipe off fingerprints or marks if there is nothing on your fridge. But my family is used to our fridge calender. Our fridge is also a mini-art gallery sporting magnets of famous paintings collected on various trips, as well as scenes from national parks. Those fridge magnets are fun memories of family vacations. So, I am torn about having a pristine refrigerator exterior, and having things I love on the front of my fridge.

What is your preference? Fridge art? or clean slate?

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Art By the Side of the Road...

Sign for Moqui Cave

One of the things I love about road trips is the odd and wonderful things you find by the side of the road. On a trip to the Grand Canyon, as we neared Kanab, UT, my husband and I saw a sign for the Moqui Cave. It looked like an obvious tourist trap, but we weren't in a big hurry, so we decided to take the tour.

Entrance to the Moqui Cave

It was a much better stop than I anticipated. Not only did the Moqui Cave have a colorful local history, but cavernous rooms inside now contain geology and artifact collections of museum quality. The cave has been used by humans since the Anasazi period. It was a Speakeasy during the 1920s, and in the 1950s it was converted to a tavern and dance hall. The inlaid bar counter contains semi-precious stones from Brazil, and is beautiful. The cave also houses pottery and artifacts from native peoples, and a big collection of fluorescent rocks. We enjoyed our time at Moqui Cave, and thought it was well worth the stop.

Here are a few other oddities I have seen by the side of the road.

World's Largest Dinosaur

Yup, we paid the fee here, too. We climbed up into the mouth of the World's Largest Dinosaur in Drumheller, Canada. Also worth the price of admission.

I love road signs.

Road signs are great, and this one had an amazing cloud formation behind it. When you see signs that say things like "Plates on the Road," it is completely worth it. 

Cemeteries are always worth a look.

I am a sucker for cemeteries.  This little cemetery in Utah is surprisingly well-kept. Family members still gather here every year, and it is very pleasant. Again, just something we saw out the car window by the side of the road that begged us to stop for a few minutes.

Wilson Arch

Wilson Arch outside of Moab, Utah, is a great natural roadside attraction. I've passed it many times, but one lovely day we stopped to take a closer look.

Truck in Nine Mile Canyon.

Who can resist this great old truck? The sagebrush in the hood is almost comical. I am not sure if it is a statement about man's blight on the land, or on nature's power to reclaim its territory. Loved seeing this, though.


We passed this rock on the way to the Spiral Jetty.  Looks like a likely spot for an alien landing. Perhaps this rock is giving directions?

Shoe Tree

One of my new favorites was this tree full of shoes we passed driving from Great Basin National Park back to Delta, Utah.  I don't know who started throwing shoes in this tree, but obviously several other people have joined the fun.  Litter? Art? Social bonding? Whatever your perspective, it is a sight to behold.

I can't wait to plan another road trip and see what else I will discover by the side of the road!
What are some of the best "roadside atractions" you have seen?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 4 - A Lick and a Promise

Clean Pantry!

This is one of those weeks when I have extra things going on, so I am a little concerned I will fall behind on my schedule to get my kitchen cleaned and organized this month. You know those weeks...when you have a sick child, or an extra project at work, or other demands on your time that disrupt your routine. I am trying hard this week to do basic cleaning, make progress in my kitchen, and juggle everything else. 

My mom (who is a VERY clean and organized person) has come to clean for me at various points in my life when I was struggling through a difficult pregnancy or rehabilitating herniated discs in my back. She would whip through my home in a blur of cleaning efficiency, doing dishes, sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms. Then she would say, "Well, that will have to do...I just gave it a lick and promise." Of course, the bathrooms were sparkling, but I knew what she meant. Sometimes we only have time for a quick slick-over, not a deep clean. This is a "lick and a promise" week on my cleaning schedule.

I knew this would be a busy week, so I made a plan on Sunday. Tasks got assigned to each day, and I marked days when I could squeeze in a little of my cleaning and organizing efforts. This is not going to be a real deep cleaning week (look out Week 5!), so I chose things I could do quickly in small blocks of time in order to keep moving forward on my project.

If you don't have a lid, you can't stay....

I started with some drawers that are in pretty decent shape, and wiped them out and tidied them up. Then I tackled the container drawer. It had become pretty jumbled. I pulled everything out and said "If you don't have lid, you can't stay." A quick match of containers to lids eliminated a few things right away. Next I pulled out things with broken lids, or containers that have seen better days. Out to the recycling bin!

The survivors.

After tucking the lids in their box and nesting the containers, everything fit easily back in the drawer. I am almost done cleaning and organizing drawers and cabinets. Today I also pulled a bottom drawer completely out and looked beneath it.

Yeah, that's dust.

Scary. But that is the "cleaning" part of the project, right? The hot pads were rescued from exile and after a good washing, I am sure they will be fine. Thank goodness for small vacuums with handy attachments. This looked better in no time, and now I know this part of my kitchen is clean.

Speaking of my kitchen, I have fallen back in love with it this month as I have reclaimed parts of it, cleaned other areas, and unloaded unwanted items. We lived in our home about a year before we pulled together the money to remodel our kitchen. I have an 8-foot island, and plenty of cabinet space. I have a built in pantry and a window seat. It is a great space. When we met with the cabinet designer, I wanted some small drawers beneath one cabinet. He asked me what I was going to put in the drawers. I used it for things like markers, glue, and colored pencils when my kids were small. And notepads. And film.

Film... oh, relic from my past...

He said I was the first person he had talked to who had a plan for those little drawers. I love them!

Love my small drawers (and yes, my kitchen trouble spot is still clean!)

The kids are much older now, and I no longer need glue sticks and markers in the kitchen for homework projects. But I found a new use for one of these little drawers. It is a perfect home for cell phone chargers and other electronic stuff! Now when the chargers are not in use, I can put them away, which helps keep my counters clear and looking tidy.

New home for cell phone chargers.

Even though I don't have a lot of time to commit to cleaning this week, I am forging ahead. I have still managed to make progress. When your life gets busy, does your cleaning routine fall apart, or do you manage with a lick and a promise?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Celebrating Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. ...I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Profound words of hope. If everyone could rise from that starless midnight and work toward that bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood...then King's vision could be a reality.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Art of Ernest Untermann

Dinosaur Painting by Ernest Untermann, Sr.

Ernest Untermann, Sr. was born in Brandenburg, Germany in 1864. He studied geology and paleontology, and was a committed Socialist. As a young man, he spent 10 years as a sailor and traveled the South Seas. Eventually, he moved to America where he translated Karl Marx's writings into English. Untermann also wrote about both economics and natural history.

Ernest Untermann, 1950

Later in life, Untermann traveled to the Uinta Basin in Utah, and fell in love with the geology and early history of the place. He began to paint.

Ernest Untermann painting

On a recent trip to Vernal, Utah, I visited the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum (that name is a mouthful!).  Upstairs in a small area off the beaten path, is a wonderful exhibit of Untermann's paintings. The art on the walls is but a fraction of the paintings housed at the museum, but there are enough paintings on exhibit to give you a feel for Untermann's style.

Prehistoric plant life in the Uinta basin

Untermann's paintings have been called whimsical, primitive, or naive. I found them to be absolutely charming. I loved his use of color and the style of his paintings.

Scenery of the Uinta Basin

After driving to Vernal and around the local area, I could see why Untermann was so fascinated with the scenery. Vernal is home to dinosaur fossils and primitive rock art from early native residents. Untermann chose to depict not only the scenery, but early creatures and peoples that once inhabited this area.

Early mammals.

I wasn't expecting to find an art exhibit at the museum, so being able to walk through this series of Ernest Untermann's paintings was quite a treat.  Untermann died in Vernal in 1956, at the age of 91. He was known as the "Artist of the Uintas."

I think this one might be my favorite.

If you would like to see Untermann's paintings in person, the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum is located at 496  E. Main Street in Vernal, UT.  Hours are 9am - 5pm daily from April to September. From October through March, the museum is open Monday through Saturday, and closed on Sundays.  Admission is $6 for adults, and $3 for children over 5.

Monday, January 12, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 3 - The Art of Habits

This week's project is to clean and organize the pantry. I am planning to tackle it on Wednesday. So rather than boring you with making a shelf of crackers and cereal boxes look nice, I want to know what you think about habits.

Apparently, in order to have a clean house, you have to have cleaning HABITS. Hmmm. Many books and websites suggest a weekly routine. I used to be better about a weekly cleaning routine, but with 4 surgeries in the past 2 years, I confess my weekly routine has slipped. Last week I began implementing a new weekly schedule and am in the process of tweaking it to fit what I would like to accomplish in a week. Now to make it a habit.

I have heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit. I think this is NOT TRUE. In fact, for some bad habits, I think I can establish them in as little as one day. And I have done things consistently for 21 days and then discarded the habit without a backward glance. I find it takes a few days to develop a bad habit, and a much longer time to develop a good one. But the thing I will agree with is that the forming of a habit requires consistency. The goal is to make the behavior automatic. And for me, that number may vary from 21 days.

My organizing book suggests establishing a habit each month. In January, I am selecting habits related to the kitchen. The one I am working on right now is emptying the dishwasher when it is through running. Simple, right? Why this one? Because if the dishwasher is empty, it allows me to encourage everyone to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher as they use them, and then voila! At the end of the day, there isn't a big mess to clean up, just a few dishes from dinner. And the counters stay neater, too.

I love this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:  "Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; show a character and you reap a destiny."

If you were to recommend a "clean kitchen" habit to me this month, what would it be? What are your automatic kitchen habits?  Do you have a weekly cleaning routine? What schedule do you follow? I appreciate you helping me on my journey to a clean and orderly home!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Art of the Journey

Brighton Lakes Trail - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

I just finished reading a couple of travel memoirs, and I have been trying to pinpoint why I enjoy reading these types of books so much. Several dot my shelves. They vary in subject matter from Robyn Davidson's camel journey across Australia in Tracks, to John Harrison's Amazonian basin river trip in Off the Map. One reason I like these books is that I can vicariously "experience" journeys I am never going to take. But I think I like them for deeper reasons as well.

In almost every case, these travelers meet kind people along the way who offer them a helping hand or encouragement or friendship in a moment of need. We don't fully appreciate the intricacies of the journeys our fellow travelers are on in this life. But we could all reach out in kindness to others to help them on their way. I know I have been blessed many times by a kind word, a smile, a note, a meal, or some other form of assistance in my journey through life.

In every journey, things don't go as planned. In Cheryl Strayed's Wild, her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail is derailed by unusually high snowfall. Several hikers abandon their trek and decide to come back in another year. Strayed continues on, but must adjust her plans. Instead of hiking a section of the snowed-in trail in California, she travels north and picks up the trail through Oregon. It requires acquiring new information for the sections of trail she hadn't planned to hike, and re-routing her supply boxes to mail drops in Oregon.  In John Harrison's Off the Map, he and his wife, Heather, become lost in the Amazon river basin. It takes some doing for them to find the correct pathway, and a journey that should have taken a few days, takes them several weeks and pushes them perilously close to their physical limits in a remote location.

Some trails are rocky - Bristlecone Pine Trail, Great Basin National Park

Every journey I read about has unexpected adventures come up. And I think that is what I like about them. Reading how other people cope when they get completely lost, or when plans change, or when journeys get interrupted has a direct application to life. In my life, at least, things rarely go as planned. On hikes, some trails are steep, some are rocky, some are beautiful. It is easy to twist an ankle, rub a blister, pull a muscle, take a fall. Likewise in life, we walk through pathways of grief, disappointment, stress and pain. But we also walk pathways of joy, love, connection and laughter. We have to make constant adjustments along the way. Sometimes we change trails, sometimes we change destinations. Sometimes it take some time and effort to figure out where we are, and where we want to go. I am finding that the real key is not the end result, but finding ways to enjoy the journey I am on, no matter how challenging it is.

"Life is like an old railway journey...." --Jenkin Lloyd Jones

My children are entering adulthood and discovering that their own journeys don't often go as planned. I would like to share with them this advice found in a quote from Jenkins Lloyd Jones, a Unitarian preacher who lived from 1843-1918. (Jones was quoted by Gordon B. Hinckley, president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this quote has gained a lot of popularity among Mormons because of its basic truth.)
"Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don't drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just ordinary people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey...delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."  --Jenkin Lloyd Jones

Just for today, enjoy your journey, and thank the Lord for letting you have the ride!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 2 - Kitchen Trouble Spot

Popular place in my kitchen for piles.

I have a great book called "One Year To An Organized Life" by Regina Leeds. Her January project is the kitchen. My kitchen has a few trouble spots, but this area by the phone is the big one, and the area I dreaded tackling the most. So, I decided to do it early in the month, in hopes that cleaning and organizing my kitchen will get easier as the month goes on.

Trouble spot and cabinet above.

The cabinets above and below my hidden counter space needed some TLC, too. I thought this project might take about three hours, but it took longer than that. Thankfully, my daughter was helping me today, and we went through folders and binders and got rid of two garbage bags full of papers I no longer wanted or needed. We also had a pile for the shredder, and re-arranged things to work better.

Then there was the junk drawer...

My junk drawer doesn't really contain junk, but is a repository for pens, pencils, tape, scissors, calculators, and other office supplies. In going through this drawer, I decided to relocate batteries and the address book, because they don't really fit in the drawer.  I also learned I don't need to buy tape for awhile!

"Junk" drawer after cleaning.

While going through papers I found this article I had apparently saved out of good intentions.

Article I had clipped from a magazine years ago.

I threw the article away. Keeping clutter about getting rid of clutter seems counter-productive.  

Lower cabinet with jumble of books.

I love cookbooks. I don't really know why. I don't particularly love cooking. But I seem to have amassed a collection of cookbooks over the years. I use them regularly, because although I don't love cooking, I do cook dinner most nights in our home. I found several cookbooks to discard, and then re-organized my remaining books. I moved half of them to the upper cabinet where they are easy to reach, and kept the ones I don't use as much in the lower cabinet. I also threw out old phone directories from church and school... there were several years worth of those hiding in my lower cabinet.

Upper Cabinet "after"

Lower Cabinet "after"

I am calling Week 2 of my "52 Weeks to a Clean House" a success. We are all relishing the new orderliness of this space. Hopefully, I have set things up so that it will be easy for our family to maintain. Maintenance is a skill I will definitely be working on this year! And a special thanks to my daughter whose positive attitude and assistance throughout the day helped make this project a success!

Yes, that is my kitchen "trouble spot!"  Looks better, right?

Good luck, everyone, as you tackle your goals this year! You can do it.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 1 - Putting Christmas Away

Packing Up Christmas Decorations

A fellow blogger recently suggested that I could blog about "52 Weeks to a Clean House," and do a post each week. She even had some great ideas for humorous posts. The more I thought about her suggestion, the more I liked it. After all, having some accountability (this blog) along the way might give me the motivation I need to actually achieve order in my home this calendar year.  I started an organizing project a couple of years ago, but was de-railed by medical challenges (cancer and a broken ankle). But I am healthy and the house is still a mess, so it seems like  a great time try again. Of course, you know from my profile that I am always looking for other things to do BESIDES clean the house, so never fear--I am certain this will not become a how-to for housework.

This first week of January is a short week (only 3 days). I spent part of New Year's day planning my goals for the upcoming year. Yesterday, I hauled boxes in from the garage and started taking down Christmas decorations.  My project for this first week of January is to finish putting Christmas away, and make a plan for what I will accomplish next week. Guess I had better get started...those boxes are not going to find their way out to the garage by themselves!

Ornaments and Storage Boxes

Happy 2015!