Monday, August 31, 2009


Last year it was painting projects and this year it appears the theme is going to be furniture stripping and refinishing.

I didn't expect it to be as difficult this year, and it isn't, W's moving back into the dorm, though the house does seem a bit empty without him already. It hasn't even been 24 hours! Not a good sign.

After tackling 2 very small household projects yesterday afternoon I started in on one that became much bigger than I anticipated: refinishing our dining room table. It had been given to us by Joe's mom and is special for that reason. It had seen its share of wear and tear from 5 kids and 3 decades of use when it came to us. I did a light sanding and 2 coats of polyurethane over the summer to spruce it up, but for some reason the last coat didn't stick well and began flaking off in a couple places. Oh well. I figured I'd to a very light sanding and reapply another top coat. Ha! Think again.

As soon as I began doing that light sanding, the top layer started coming off in earnest. Ok, so it all needed to come off, I can do that. But....... while I'm at it I might as well take it down to bare wood and do a proper job of it, no sense in cutting corners now. That burn mark where the candle fell over during an enjoyable dinner with friends can be sanded out, as can be the deep scratch of unknown origin.

The "small project" I thought I'd be able to tackle in an afternoon or two has now become a full-blown refinishing, and will take a week or 2, depending on how much time I devote to it.

I was laughing at myself a bit as I was working on the table yesterday, noting the coincidence of my starting this project and the departure of W for college. As Freud said, there really aren't any coincidences, and I suspect he's probably right. Ah well, we all have our strategies, and mine is clearly that of working with my hands.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

More Homemade Cleanser Recipes

After reading this article- link- I was very disappointed to learn that one of my favorite companies, Burt's Bees, was owned by one of the most un-environmentally friendly companies around- Clorox. I suppose I should have known: products that used to be found at out of the way, small shops could now be found at commercial giants such as CVS and even Wal-Mart. Is nothing sacred anymore?

In response, I thought I'd post a couple more recipes for things I can make on my own. I have a terrible habit of jotting things down on pieces of scrap paper and then losing them, so this will at least ensure that I can find the recipes down the road when I need them.

A dear friend swears by a recipe of brushing her teeth with baking soda, then mashed strawberries for sparkly white teeth, which her Nana taught her to do. Can't wait to try it!

Homemade Toothpaste
6 tsp baking soda
4 tsp vegetable glycerine (available at Whole Foods)
1/3 tsp salt
15 drops peppermint extract
Mix all ingredients.
I may try adding a few drops of oregano oil, which has antibacterial properties.

Homemade Deodorant
2-3 Tbs unrefined Coconut oil
1/8 c baking soda
1/8 cup cornstarch or arrowroot powder
Mix dry ingredients and add to melted coconut oil; Pour into glass jar or old deodorant container.

And here's a recipe for another household cleaner:

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup vinegar.
Let soak 15 minutes in toilet bowl and scrub as usual.

I can't believe how much money we've been saving since I started making most of our household cleaners. On top of that, they're much more environmentally friendly. As we use the store bought ones up I'm replacing them with the ones I've made. Maybe I'm a total egoist but I actually think mine work better!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Millions of Peaches

Peaches for me. Millions of peaches, peaches for free. - Presidents of the United States

Well, maybe not millions of peaches, but an abundance, certainly. And yes, they were free! My generous friend Cynthia has a peach tree that produces really ugly fruit, but they are the best tasting peaches I've ever had. I made a peach cobbler yesterday and had so many peaches left over I thought I'd try to make some jam. After calling around trying to find canning jars (who knew they were so uncommon?) I finally found some and got all the supplies.

Mmmmmmm, summer in a jar. These will be great next winter on toast!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The KISS Principle

I first heard the idea of the KISS principle in college, one of my professors mentioned it in reference to our term paper: Keep It Simple, Stupid!. It got stored away in some dusty corner of my brain, along with what I considered to be other, non-essential information and was there waiting for me to re-discover it when I was ready to really understand what it was.

I've discovered that keeping things simple is really one of the keys to happiness. Bigger isn't better. Less is more. Yep, keep it simple, stupid! I think the last word is there because it seems so blatantly obvious; we think we understand what it's saying, but perhaps it takes 4 decades of living under your belt to really "get it". At least that is how long it has taken me.

It started without my realizing it, a downshifting of the household to make things more streamlined. I hadn't realized I was making things more complex than they needed to be! Once the lightbulb went on and I had that "a-ha" moment I was able to see many things in my daily life that were superfluous and unnecessary. All that junk that we're storing in the basement in case we need it? Guess what- it's been there for 15 years and hasn't been touched. Common sense would tell us that we're not going to be using it if we haven't already. Why keep it?

We're programmed to hang on to things, some of us more than others, but this is just one example of how we are sometimes our own worst enemies and make things more difficult on ourselves because we're unable to break our old patterns and habits. Not an easy task, let me tell you, but slowly and surely I'm trying to look at all aspects of how I live and simplify, simplify, simplify. Less possessions, less purchasing, less products, less chemicals, less clutter = more happiness. And isn't happiness what it's all about?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


We awoke this morning to the news that Senator Ted Kennedy, age 77, had died late last evening. Although the news wasn't unexpected, it is very sad to know that this advocate for the people has died after battling brain cancer for a little over a year. He definitely left the world a better place than he found it and will be sorely missed on many levels.

While listening to the recaps of his life, it struck me that his effectiveness was due to the fact that this man had truly found his niche in the senate. There must have been tremendous pressure for him to fill his brother's shoes and strive for the Presidency, which he did attempt in 1980, but it seems that he realized his place was working behind the scenes for change, and that was where he remained. I applaud his ability recognize his particular skill set and work with it to maximize his individual potential. Clearly, his gifts were the ability to advocate for fairness and equality, in addition to being able to compromise and work with senators from both parties.

We're all presented with a unique set of gifts. So often we get caught up in what we "should" be, or in the quest to be "better", or move up the ladder, but that doesn't always translate to using our own skills in a way that is best for us, personally. Not everyone is cut out to be a senator, businessperson, doctor or lawyer; the trick is to figure out what your skills are, what you want to do with them, and be the best at it that you possibly can.

Rest in Peace, Senator Kennedy and thank you for being such a powerful role model on so many levels.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Testing Positive

I've always wondered about steroids and cystic fibrosis and now I'm wondering no more. I'm on my first course of Prednisone for PFTs that were an all-time new low for me. It was pretty weird to see the FEV1 results as I did the tests, they started out horrible, sure, but as a rule they improve with a couple more tries. Not this time, they didn't budge.

I knew I wasn't feeling great, although I wouldn't say I was feeling "sick". This is my least favorite time of year - hot, hazy and humid weather with lousy air quality. Yes, we have air conditi0ners, but they don't purify the air so although it is cooler, the quality is still sub-par. The poor air quality really affects me and I have a much more difficult time breathing, my energy is low and just generally feel crappy. I've been a slacker with the exercise which in turn creates a vicious cycle. I got a lecture from the PT to start up again, which I'll be doing today. Hopefully the 'roids will give me the jump-start I need along with some cooler, drier weather which will be coming in on Thursday. I don't like to wish the summer away, but is it autumn yet?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Diamond in the Rough

This morning Joe and I went on a yard sale-ing excursion with some friends who are veterans. In the past we've occasionally stopped in at a yard sale if we happen to be passing by, but have never made an effort to seek them out. Our friends checked the paper and plotted our route. These people don't mess around!

At one place I saw this sweet little painted table. It had quite a few dings in it but the owner - who said it was an "antique, from the 60's" -only wanted $3 for it so I couldn't resist. A fresh coat of paint on it and it would look good as new.

But wait a sec.... I wonder what's under all that paint? Curiosity got the better of me and I had to see the wood. Beneath the 2 coats of stubborn white paint was a mustard yellow layer with black curlicues and flowers. It had probably been pretty at one time, but the color reminded me of the 70's and all my scraping didn't do it any favors, either. The wood, once I was able to see a patch, appears to be walnut or cherry, absolutely lovely. It would be a shame to cover it with another coat of paint. This baby needs to be stripped!

I'm glad I got a "before" photo because this is going to take a lot of work and I want to be able to remind myself how it looked once it's all finished. Being the tree-hugger I am, I won't use any chemical strippers to remove the paint and will do it all with elbow grease. I'm going to be scraping for quite some time!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


For the past 10 days we've had a purple finch visiting our thistle feeder. He's been easy to identify because he has a feather on his little head that is broken and sticking out at an odd angle. Joe was able to get quite close to him and discovered that he must have sustained an injury - either an animal caught him and he was lucky enough to escape, or perhaps he flew into a window.

He spent a lot of time on our feeder at first, the first day we noticed him he was there all afternoon, sleeping on and off, eating a few seeds and then just resting.

I was worried about him but knew there wasn't much I could do other than let nature take its course. I didn't know what we'd find when we came home from Maine, would he gone? Recovered and moved on, or succumbed to his injuries? I resigned myself to the not knowing but was very pleasantly surprised to see him still visiting our feeder and spending quite a bit of time there. I see it as a good sign that he's eating, I imagine if he was in very dire condition he'd just hole up somewhere and stop eating.

It seemed appropriate to give him a name since he's been around so much, I didn't feel right just calling him "that purple finch" or "our birdie". Barney seemed appropriate since he's purple.... after all, when Wilson was 4 he named Joe's Saturn Barney because it was plum-colored. Feel better soon, Barney!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hey, It's Good

To be back home again.

After a wonderfully relaxing few days in Maine with my parents and brother we are back home again. Each year around my mom's birthday we all gather, it's become a fun tradition.

The cabin is very rustic, with 2 outhouses -though there is indoor plumbing and electricity now. No TV. No internet. No neighbors. Life slows down and we all take the time to read, talk and relax without the interference of the outside world. Meals are a bit slower because there's nowhere to rush off to afterwords.

Picking blueberries from the surrounding fields is a favorite activity, as well as baking blueberry muffins, pies and pancakes. The crop varies from year to year - last year was very sparse as the fields had been mowed, and this year was only slightly better. Hopefully next year we'll have a bumper crop and I'll be able to make some blueberry jam.

Occasionally, if we're awake early enough, we'll be lucky and see a deer or possibly a moose. This year I saw a female deer at the edge of the field, but by the time I had gone inside to get the camera she was gone.

The night sky is especially beautiful and on a clear night the stars are so bright. No light pollution here.

As relaxing and restful as it is at the cabin, it's always good to return home to Gomer, Gracie and Millie, our little house, gardens and neighborhood. Nothing like some time away to make us appreciate what we have and take for granted every day.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ebb and Flow

I suppose anyone who pursues a creative endeavor will experience times that are more fruitful than others. While I was learning to quilt I noticed there were periods when the desire was there but I just didn't have any ideas. I found this incredibly frustrating but soon learned that everyone goes through these dry spells. You can't force it, no matter how much you want to, and you just have to be patient and wait for your mojo to return. (On a side note, I have tried to force it and learned that it is just a waste of time and energy).

My quilting drive seemed to have been replaced by a soap-making drive; I haven't quilted in months. Lately I was feeling a bit of the 'itch' and I've been rearranging my fabric closet and tidying up the room. This sort of nesting behavior usually precedes some project or other. Sure enough- I got out my machine the other day and several ideas immediately popped into my head.

I made a padded sleeve to protect my laptop when traveling, and I made one for Joe as well. I'm anxious to start a baby quilt for one of my students, who is expecting her fourth baby in January. I have a feeling it's a girl so will make a girl-baby quilt, but may have to make a backup blue one just in case my intuition is wrong. The drought is over- hallelujah!

Friday, August 7, 2009

We're Pretty Lucky

Every Thursday evening in July and August there are free concerts at Red Rock Park in Lynn, which is within walking distance from our house. In previous years we've taken advantage once, or maybe twice, but this summer we've made it a habit to grab some takeout or bring a light meal, a blanket and listen to whichever band is performing. Even if the music isn't our style it's great to sit outdoors on a warm night, overlooking the ocean, watching people and listening to a live band.

By attending every week we've come to recognize other regulars: the crazy woman who dances all alone in front of the band, the older group that appears to be doing aerobics, and the kids who run around and play in the grass. It's all part of the fun.

Last week as we were munching on Mexican takeout, listening to the band and watching the sailboats in the harbor our friend Brian said, "we're pretty lucky to live here". Indeed we are, and it's good to be reminded.