Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunlit Sunday

I think I caught the only sunshine we're going to see today. A bit of golden sun came through my kitchen window making shadows of my pinecone garland and birchbark snowflake hanging across the window.

The pinecones stay up through the winter, and then I must really attend to the kitchen curtains I've neglected for the past ten or more years!

The sunshine was there for only a few minutes, and now has gone behind a dense layer of cloud that I see stretched far across to the west. Temperatures are on the rise again after a very bitterly cold week with high winds. Now that we're into February, I doubt we'll get any good snow cover this year.

Today will be back to decluttering again after an unsatisfactory visit with my dad yesterday. I could only rouse him from his sleep enough for him to say "It's cold in here", and then he drifted off again. I spent my visit tidying up his room ... ie. going through his closet, desk and bureaus to search for things he has hidden away. Yesterday it was the thermostat that he ripped off the wall ... again :[ 

I may or may not head down to the marsh today to get a few more pictures of these little guys ...

There was lots of sunshine down at the marsh earlier this week, and all the little critters were enjoying it.

The blue jays in the birches were so pretty against that winter blue sky.

Happy Sunday Everyone!

Linking up with Karen at My Little Home and Garden 
for Sunlit Sunday!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

To the Woods!

This morning I bundled up two little companions to go for a walk with me in the woods. Yesterday was so dark and dreary that I had the lights on for much of the day! SO today with the sun coming out between the clouds I thought I would get to the woods to refresh our minds. We've had very little snow this winter, and without snow there is not a whole lot for me to do outdoors with the little guys in my care. Last night we got a nice dusting of snow which if no good for tobogganing, at least it looks pretty!

We headed down to our favourite little woods right here in town on the edge of Lake Ontario. The path through the woods is relatively short and very easy, but my companions today were anything but cooperative. They cried and whined and sat down and lay down and just wouldn't walk with me! It was really frustrating. You have to pay for parking, and even though I put plenty of money in for lots of time, we ended up racing back to the van before our time on the meter was up! Here's a photo that now makes me laugh, but at the time ...

Yes, this is a child in my care, left abandoned on the trail ;)
I didn't bring any birdseed with me (and I just couldn't face stopping at the store to first buy birdseed as it's such a pain to get kids in and out of car seats when they're wearing full winter gear ... ie. snowpants). We went empty handed, but the chickadees came to say hello despite our lack of food. 

And so did the ducks and the geese. 

I like playing with the exposure of the duck photos when I get home.

The Canada Geese were very restless and so noisy! A great cloud of them flew over at one point, maybe 100 or more geese with a cacophony of honking. It was amazing! I got only the tail end of this spectacle through the trees ...

There were a few blue jays flitting through the trees too, but I only got a couple of unsatisfactory photos of them. I'm sure they didn't want their photo taken as they kept going higher and higher up into the trees and there were too many branches between my lens and their pretty blue feathers. 

I think I'll have to get down to the marsh on the weekend when I am on my own and can enjoy a bit longer walk and a bit more freedom :) 

Thanks for stopping by!


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunlit Sunday

Yesterday my husband and I took a little jaunt into Toronto to visit a couple of wood supply warehouses. These places deal with reclaimed wood from old barns, old warehouses, etc. One guy had the luck of collecting some old wharf planks that were unearthed along the waterfront recently. The wharf had been buried under landfill, and when developers dug down for the foundation of yet another condominium, they discovered this entire wooden wharf and they sold it off. The wood store guy was thrilled with it, but he learned that the wood is actually toxic from all the pollutants in Lake Ontario, and you could only use it for certain projects. He also had a ton of old stable doors taken from the Royal Winter Fair barns and auctioned off. We left with only a small purchase of this interesting maple slab for a tray or to maybe just hang on the wall because it's so pretty. The pattern is created by worms that got into the live tree and caused the tree to go through some distress. The tiny black dots are the holes where the worms went into the wood.

One side

The other side

Just the right size for a tray!

I keep seeing lots of people joining Sunlit Sunday lately, and just this morning I had taken some photos of the sunrise. I'm joining in with Karen of My Little Home and Garden for this new-to-me meme. We've been having some beautiful sunrises and sunsets lately ... unfortunately the sunset photos get far too many hydro wires spoiling the view. The sunrise shots are through the backyard. This beautiful display was over in a quick 15 minutes, but it was gorgeous while it lasted!

I didn't get much decluttering done yesterday what with driving in and out of the big TO, but here's a little pic of something I have put in the "goodbye" pile ... my son's little hiking boots from when he was about 4 years old. I like the worn toes on them from riding his little car down our driveway. The toes on his shoes and boots were often worn through as he pushed along with his feet and dragged his shoes along the pavement. I have loved keeping these little boots, and it's killing me to get rid of them. But this is the kind of stuff I'm dealing with, and I thought I'd take a photo as a reminder of those happy days ;) I now have my kids' little baby things down to one outfit each and one pair of shoes each. Yes, I have an even smaller pair of shoes for my son, and they too have the toes worn off ;)

Happy Sunday Everyone!


Need a little sunshine in your day?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Out of This Life ... Decluttering Continues!

Out of this life I shall never take
Things of silver and gold I make.
All that I cherish and hoard away
After I leave, on this earth must stay.
Tho' I have toiled for a painting rare
To hang on the wall, I must leave it there.
Tho' I call it mine, and boast its worth,
I must give it up when I leave this earth.
All that I gather, and all that I keep,
I must leave behind when I fall asleep.
And I often wonder what I shall own
In that other life, when I pass alone.
What shall they find, and what shall they see
In the soul that answers the call for me?
Shall the Great Judge learn,
When my task is through,
That my spirit has gathered some riches too,
Or shall, at last, it be mine to find
That all I'd worked for I'd left behind?

                                  - Author Unknown

I've been spending many, many, many hours purging my house of "things of silver and gold" these past few weeks. In clearing out some old papers, I came across this poem among some poems written by my Great Aunt Mary. It seemed quite fitting to find it during this great decluttering I have assigned myself this year. 

Things in the decluttering are going very well! I have filled our Honda van up completely once to take things to the thrift store, and I will fill it up again tomorrow to go to the thrift store again. I'm beginning to feel some extra wiggle room in closets, cupboards, dressers and basically all areas of our home. It's starting to feel just a teeny bit better, but there is still a long way to go. 

On the advice of some of my blogging friends I went out immediately to purchase the book by Marie Kondo on decluttering. She had some helpful advice on how to address the question of what to keep and what to get rid of. I have found it a good way to get started on the decluttering, and was able to work through areas quite quickly and easily. By working through the stuff "by category" rather than "by room", I have been quite successful in clearing tons of stuff in clothing, books, dishes, sewing, etc. 

Thank you everyone who left such wonderful words of encouragement on my last post ... I'm shocked that it was Jan 7 when I last wrote a post! I found all your words and thoughts and virtual hugs were so helpful in getting me started on this decluttering process. To know that so many of you have also had to deal with this same issue has been a comfort. I don't feel so much alone in this task knowing that many of you have managed to get through this tedious ordeal as well ... and feel so much better for having done it! It was so nice of you all to share what you have found to be helpful, and to wish me best of luck. I have gone back and read the comments several times to keep some of your kind thoughts and your ideas for decluttering fresh in my mind. 

I'm not kidding when I tell you that I have purged items every single day since I started this effort. By working on it continuously and for so long, it has given me a more practiced eye to see what can stay and what truly needs to be sent out the door. I've known for a long time that I've bought far too much stuff over the years that was totally unnecessary. I would actually feel ill at ease when I brought yet another "thrift store treasure" into the house. I knew it was reaching a breaking point when I would hide the treasure and even the store's bags from my husband! By admitting that these things make me cringe when I look at them, it has made it so much easier to send these things back out the door again. It has helped me feel so much better in my heart as well. I've been able to let a lot of my mom's things go as well, which was made easier through the help of your comments, and also with the help of the book. 

Until I get a lot further on this decluttering, I will continue to keep my computer time to a minimum. Once I feel I've got things under control, I'll be able to join in again with visiting all of you. I'm getting down to the most dreaded areas of the decluttering ... photos, my kids' artwork (from when they were small), and "important" papers! ugh! I also have to work through the garage, which is all heavy stuff. So far I've been working away at this on my own without help from my husband. If I need a bit of a push to throw something out, I discuss it with him and he usually provides the blunt words I need to let certain items go. Don't get me wrong, I don't want my husband's help with most of this stuff! I need to work through it at my own pace so that I know I dealt with everything in a calm, clear way. I don't want to rashly chuck stuff out. I think carefully about each item before letting it go. I will need his help in the garage though. Since starting this decluttering, my husband has gone through his woodworking shop and cleared out so much stuff that he now has a clear work bench and a large area to do some proper woodworking again! See what I started?! We both feel so much better about the state of the house already.

So thank you again everyone for your assistance! I will report in again soon, and will hopefully be back to regular programming before too long.

Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, January 07, 2016

Decluttering in 2016

I think I've mentioned in the past that I helped clear out my parents' home when my mom passed away and my dad went into a home. It was absolutely the worst time of my life!! I don't want to go into all the miserable details, but I was carting stuff out of their house every Saturday for two years in my mini van. I would come home with the van loaded front to back, top to bottom with stuff. Then on Sunday I would sort through it ... garbage / goodwill / keep. Over and over and over!

Photo from today ... completely unrelated to this post!
After two years it got increasingly difficult to decide what to get rid of, and I kept far too much of the possessions. I know this because my family complains about the crowded rooms now ;) I was just burnt out from everything ... losing my mother to cancer, suddenly losing my father to dementia at the same time, losing the family home that had meant so much to us all and just losing that whole part of my life! So I kind of stopped with the purging and sorting and just left things sit in the garage and in the basement and anywhere I could find room. Every so often I would gather myself up and tackle a small bit of it again. 

I found I was loathe to get rid of all of it because I felt like I was getting rid of my parents at the same time. It's like their essence existed within their possessions, and I just couldn't bear to throw things away. Once it's gone, it's really gone! I had to make tough decisions because I would never be able to get anything back once it went out the door. And I wasn't really sure I wanted to lose absolutely everything just yet. It was so bad, that I would even buy things at the thrift store that my parents once had because it reminded me of them! When I look back at that time I can honestly say I wasn't coping well with the loss of my mother. It really shook me. I ended up in the hospital two weeks after her death in unbearable pain thinking I had had a heart attack. Thankfully(?) it was "just" stress, but it was definitely a warning to me. I maybe should have sought out some grief counselling, but I didn't.

So the clutter in my house reigned. I'm not saying my house looks like an episode of "Hoarders", but my family enjoyed labelling me with that distinction every so often. I would get so angry at them, that they finally quit. I would even watch that show every so often to double check that I really wasn't in such dire straights! I did learn a lot about why people hoard, however, and sadly most people hoard for emotional reasons. Oh dear ... I was really emotional! 

My last great blitz was when we redid our kitchen in 2014. I did really well sorting out the kitchen stuff. The kitchen had to be completely emptied to paint all the cupboards, and I was very careful about what went back into it. The only things I'm still having trouble deciding on are my mom's spongecake pan and bundt cake pan. I've never made either type of cake in my life, and not even in the five years since Mom's death ... but they still are with me. My kitchen cupboards have remained organized and tidy, however, which makes me happy. I found it easy in the kitchen because when you're using baking & cooking utensils, pots & pans, you quickly notice which things you are using and which you are not. I could be honest with myself and get rid of things that weren't getting used at all. It's harder in other areas. How often do you "use" a figurine? or a book? or a vase? There's nothing to gauge these items for their practicality. Some things were just nice to have, but not useful at all. And these are the things that sit and wait for a final eviction order.

This year I want to make a really good try at getting the last of this stuff sorted out yet again. Each time I tackle it I get a little braver. I know the process is 90%  emotionally involved, but seriously, these things will never bring my mother back or stop my father's further progression into dementia. Having so much stuff in my house is making me depressed and annoying my family. 

When I went up to our friends' cottage for New Year's they had the same thing to deal with when they took over their parents' cottage. My friend told me "it's just so liberating to let things go and start fresh". I want that liberating feeling so badly! I know she had the same family memories wrapped up in the cottage possessions. They kept only what really mattered  ... aka things they would actually use! And the cottage looked lovely without all the junky bits and pieces. She also said, "If you like something so much, just take a picture of it instead and get rid of the item". I tried that today with a few of my kids crafts they did when they were small. I took the photos ... but I couldn't part with all of the crafts! I did throw out three crafts, but the following went back in the box. Not sure if that suggestion will work, but I'll try it again with something else.

back in box

back in box

back in box ... this was my "fall decorating" box from the crawlspace

I used to have very little in my house, and I want that freedom of space again. I even remember when a great aunt died and my mother brought all kinds of things home from Great Aunt Mary's house, and I absolutely hated it! I hated that suddenly there were crowded areas in the home and the things that were crowding it weren't "ours". I hated the smell that suddenly infused my parents' house brought in from the furnishings, and I just didn't like most of the things my mom brought home. They were so old and ugly I thought. Now I find myself asking why I'm doing exactly the same thing to my own house! My family detests it, and I don't like the cramped feeling, so I really need to do something.

My husband and I sometimes sit and discuss things that I need to let go. Usually we're sitting in the living room and he looks around and says "you need to get rid of that chair" and then it progresses to other things "I need to get rid of".  It usually turns into an argument ... not good. I'm sure my mother never intended for her possessions to cause me and my family such anxiety. In my mind I can just imagine her saying "Oh Wendy, just let these things go, they don't matter". I also don't want to cause my own kids anxiety over these possessions when I go! I would just hate to put them through this. My mother didn't intend for this to happen. I know she had planned to get rid of a lot of her possessions, but she got past it (age and ability wise) before she got around to it. She did pass along her teacups and her own paintings to us kids before they even moved house. I like those things best because she gave them to me ... I didn't end up with them. I remember our conversations when she passed them along, and that meant more to me than dealing with all these possessions now that she is gone.

So this year will be the "Big & Final Purge" of all this stuff. I may or may not ask my siblings if they want any of these items. It becomes more difficult then because I have to get the things out to them ... and only one lives relatively close. Shipping charges for my brother to BC would add up, and he admitted already to me that he doesn't want to pay for that. But I can't hold onto these things forever for him. He has mentioned a few things that he would like to have, but that's always where it ends and no plans are made to collect them. What would you do in this situation? 

I already started with the purging when the Christmas decorations came down. I was thinking it would be really nice and really helpful if the Christmas decorations were just kept upstairs in a cedar chest (from Mom!), rather than in the crawlspace which is really awkward to get into at the back of a basement coat closet. So I've started sorting things to get rid of from the cedar chest. It's not been easy, but I'm getting there. There are a few baby quilts etc. in there that my MIL made for my kids which I have to keep, but a lot of things are not being used at all ... I need a mantra to keep saying to myself in order to keep going. What do you tell yourself when you purge long loved belongings that no longer have a use?

Wish me luck in this venture ... I sure do need it ;)


Sunday, January 03, 2016

New Year's North by Northwest

Happy New Year Everyone!!

After a stressful start to the Christmas holidays, things have all calmed down now and I've had a very relaxing week off with my little family of four. We met my daughter in university town two days before Christmas and had a very enjoyable reunion with her at a boisterous restaurant full of other families and students doing the same thing. Delicious food in a wonderful old restaurant with exposed brick walls and creaky well-worn wooden floors. You know the type, right? The town is chuck full of these beautiful restaurants with just amazing food! Every time we pick her up for an extended time at home, she has searched out yet another restaurant to try ... such fun ;)

Pinecone decorations; December calendar art by Kananginak Pootoogook "Shedding the Velvet"; Santa & Snowman wooden garland

We all came home happy and full and the next day I ploughed ahead with cleaning up my house for Christmas. Some of you already know that I run a daycare in my home, and I had five kids (ages 2 - 11) in the house all day once school let out on the Friday before Christmas ... so you can imagine that things were not as organized as I like for my own family with ongoing crafts and activities! Poor Smudge bunny was a bit neglected and we kept rolling his cage all around the living room and kitchen in an effort to decorate. He let us know he wasn't happy and there was hay kicked out of his cage all over the carpet! My living room looked more like a barnyard than a home. I warned my daughter not to judge me when she saw the mess (it is her rabbit afterall!). After six hours of cleaning and organizing, I had everything in place and ready for Christmas ... including half of the Christmas meal ready to go. I was exhausted!

A few angel decorations with birchbark stars :)
Christmas Day was lots of fun of course, although we spent it just on our own. My kids and dog(!) still heap on our bed first thing in the morning ready to open stockings. I think that's the best part of the day for me. Everyone is so silly and excited, and the dog is ripping all our presents open for us and trying to grab our chocolates, it gets quite crazy! And it's freezing cold because no one wants to run and turn up the furnace, so we're all wrapped in woolly blankets cross-legged on the bed. Magic!

My siblings and I used to all gather together in my eldest sister's bed on Christmas morning and open our stockings together before my parents got up. Stocking gifts were always a kids' thing back then, not an adult thing. It was like a little secret present opening with my sisters and brother that our parents never shared. I loved it, but I also love the way my own family does it now too with all of us getting a stocking filled with little surprises.

Christmas morning; More pinecones in the decorating; Childhood crafts
Anyway! Christmas was lots of fun, nice gifts, great company and a great meal (even if I do say so myself!) of turkey and fixin's. We then headed out to see my dad on Boxing Day and one of my sisters and two of her girls were there as well. Dad didn't understand any of it of course, and would fell asleep in little cat naps throughout our visit. A few of the other residents drifted into our midst and would amuse us with their funny ways. This is the "Reminiscence Ward" (aka dementia) at the home, so everyone living on that floor is confused. One lady wrapping her doll up in the Christmas tissue paper from our gifts and questioning the doll "where's your mama?". She's a sweetheart, and none of us minded. The care workers were trying desperately to remove her from our gathering, but we kept insisting that she was welcome, so they finally let her be.

Dad & my sister; The Gang
We hosted my side of the family for a Christmas meal on Wednesday and had a very enjoyable time together with non-holiday food this time. My nephew's wife and my sister brought some amazing hors d'oeuvres, and we rounded out the meal with a few hot dishes and desserts. I had premade everything, and it was buffet style, so clean up was such a breeze! We were finished cleaning up an hour after everyone left!

The next day my husband and I were off to something we were both looking forward to, and also apprehensive about. We went to visit friends of ours that we have not seen in almost 20 years! My husband and his friend first met years ago when they both worked as salesmen at a Ford car dealership (almost 30 years ago). We spent years together travelling to their parents' cottage on Lake Huron (northwest of us). When we both started having kids, we both moved quite far apart, and that's when we stopped seeing each other. My husband has kept in contact with his friend over the internet and on the phone all these years, but we never met up again until this week for New Year's Eve. This couple have bought the same cottage we used to go to from their parents, and transformed it into a beautiful Cape Cod cottage inside and out. It's beautiful!! Darkened board and batten pine that made the cottage so dark inside has been painted over in about 6 coats of white paint. Worn out wall to wall carpets were ripped out and replaced with medium dark laminate flooring which looks like real hardwood. A completely new kitchen and new bathroom, and the place looks amazing! All the work was done on their own except for exterior siding.

We spent a couple of fun days together at the cottage and had a marvelous time. I've never talked so much in probably 20 years! It was weird that when we met up it was like no time had passed at all, but we both had entire lifetimes (all our kids are now young adults) to share.

Our old "renewed" friends (me on far right); Lake Huron

There were walks along the beach beside the crashing waves and bitter wind. And another much calmer walk through the woods behind their cottage. My husband made them a gift of a wine rack out of birds eye maple and zebra wood. His own design and I think he did a great job with it.

Friends (my husband on far right); wine rack
Yesterday we took our daughter back to university town and left her all alone in her rental home. Her roommates would be returning early this week. Seemed a little sad to hug her goodbye and close the door on her ... she looked so forlorn :( Ah well, maybe she'll enjoy some time to herself before her friends return.

And now we're at the last day of holidays. The tree is undecorated (started that yesterday afternoon), and the decorations are waiting to be shoved back in the crawlspace. There are more than a few leftovers in the fridge. I wouldn't say we indulged through the week, but the food has been richer! We did finally get some snow too ... not quite in time for Christmas Day, but that's okay. The white and the cold makes it feel like a proper winter, which I like ;) The temperatures dropped from 14C a couple of days before Christmas, to now about -5C and getting colder. It's snowing again as I write this, so I'm glad our long drives here there and everywhere are over for now!

Now into 2016! I think we started the year off right with renewing our friendship and spending lots of time with family. It's made my days much brighter than they were before the holidays. I hope everyone is doing well. I've read both happy stories and sad stories here in blogland through the past couple of weeks, so life does go on in its own way.

Happy New Year!

Thanks for stopping by!


Christmas Tree Unplugged!

Linking up with Lavender Cottage Mosaic Monday!

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