Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review

I just finished reading this book by Jay Shafer:

The Small House Book

In it, Jay walks you through his journey of downsizing and tells his story of why less is more.  I was truly inspired ... here in America, we've been (willingly) led down the path of "bigger is better" and "more is better" without exercising any independent thought as to why we seem to readily believe that we need more.   We are encouraged to buy the biggest car (and drive it in the fastest lane) sleep in the biggest bed, order the bigger plate of food, and buy the biggest house we can afford.  It makes me green, and that's in a nauseous way, not in an environmental way...

For me, the book is thought provoking and compelling.  It's opened my eyes to the fact that although my house is already quite small by most people's standards, it now seems too large for me.  I mostly only live in half of it.  What changes can I make?  How can I reverse the trend in my life?

It also outlines the nuts and bolts side of things -- how zoning is the biggest roadblock, and let's talk about plumbing and storage!  I found it to be full of valuable nuggets of practical information as well as beautiful photos and sample floor plans.  Hmmmmm intriguing.

The book is available for purchase here
or on Amazon.  I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kitchen Clean Out

With living simply and living small on my mind, yesterday afternoon I ducked the outside heat and went through my kitchen cabinets to sort out things that I don't need. 

Here's what I'm ditching:

(Okay so not the sewing machine... that was just out!)  Those few plastic containers are pretty much the last plastic in my kitchen -- liberation!  I've successfully replaced plastics over time with glass so I don't need those anymore. 

The horrifying/amusing/amazing (you choose) thing was how many of these items came out of one "black hole" corner cabinet.  I seriously had to lay on my belly and use a flashlight and a three foot grill basting brush to wrangle things out of the back!  I'll tell you -- nothing is going back into THAT cabinet.  I found things that I forgot I had, and things the previous owners had left behind -- two years ago -- and things just kept coming out!  It was like the clown car where more and more people pile out...  I even found an one cup espresso machine!  (Not mine.... but if I can find operating instructions online, well....) 

Here's the cabinet:

The door on the right, next to the fridge?  It's your standard cabinet.  The door on the left?  It goes in, and then the entire cabinet does a dog-leg back to the back of the refrigerator wall.  Supreme planning on someone's part at some point!  Of course now... you can probably predict what's coming...

I want to take out that corner unit*.  Saying the cabinets are primitive is being generous -- you'll have to trust me --  the photo doesn't show you its true style.  The cabinet is virtually unusable... and I'll just mention again how I loathe that tile.  I'm thinking a little butcher block table of some sort... Frankly anything would be an improvement it's such unusable space.  Reality is, though, after taking out the cabinets on the opposite side of the kitchen, removing the unit would undoubtedly leave me with a ragged looking wall.  I rationalize that I don't mind, as it would be a continuation of the gradual demolition of my kitchen and that some day when I win the lottery and do a kitchen makeover I'll have less demo to do...  :::grin:::

Also tackled yesterday:  I've been struggling with my recycle area (a generous description for a paper bag in a cabinet.)  The cabinet has a shelf in the middle that obstructs unnecessarily.  I tried to take the shelf out -- HA!  Whomever installed it planned for it to be there a lifetime -- it wouldn't budge.  I checked a similar cabinet on the opposite side of the sink and that shelf nearly fell out in my hands (two planks were literally held together with shelf paper) so I swapped the contents of the two sides.  One was pots and pans, and one was dog food and recycle.  As we say, it's the little things that are the "Quality of Life Improvements."  As a bonus, I stumbled upon a dreamy under the counter smell good solution:

My empty fabric softener jug.  Have you ever smelled this stuff?  It's all natural, and this particular scent is lavender.  I only use it on my towels (and even then, only when I remember... ahem.)  Anyway -- if you haven't smelled it, next time you are in Wholefoods or your local co-op, give it a whirl.  You will positively swoon.  I am going to leave it under the cabinet, cap off (it's an empty bottle headed for recycle anyway) and see how long the aroma lasts... And, somewhat related, I'll warn you about the geranium scented counter spray also by Meyers:  overpowering.  As in, too overpowering to use, in my opinion... but I am a rather unscented person...

Today I'll bring home a few boxes from work, load up, and head to Goodwill.  Don't you just love getting rid of "stuff"?  It makes me feel lighter, and my house airier, just knowing that I have cleaned out; even if the less cluttered areas are not visible.

*  Truth be told, I want to take out that entire wall behind the stove. 

UPDATE:  The poster up on the cabinets in the photo is actually a cut out from a holiday Wholefoods bag last year.  I liked the sentiment and decided to tape it up as a reminder to be grateful and to give thanks.

Why Go Organic?

One of my dearest friends sent me this video this morning -- a nice visual of what's in the grocery store.

And because Google makes it so easy -- a link from Cornell about chlorpropham:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rain Barrel Details...

As my rain barrels empty I am trying to take advantage of the ability to move them (Fact:  50 gallons of water weighs approximately 417 pounds.  Lesson?  Put your barrels where you want them!) and get the proper footings under them.

I have custom steel tables under two of my barrels, courtesy of the steel company who built my back steps.   Oh how I wish I had asked for more!  (Those little yellow Blackfoot Daisies at the base?  They are 4 feet tall now!)

My other 3 barrels I have up on concrete blocks, and the blocks are just sitting on the ground; i.e. they aren't exactly level.  So, on my list of things to do is to pour a concrete pad for each of them to get them to sit level (and look better.) 

For the one that is on blocks that faces my neighbors' driveway, I'd also plan to build a wooden box (beadboard?) to hide the concrete blocks which are nothing pretty to look at, regardless of shrubs to hide them... but that's another day.

Looks precarious, doesn't it?  Considering the weight...

Yesterday I got one pad poured:

This is for the barrel that is on my garage, back by the alley.  I framed in a 24" x 24" square, leveled it, place 2 sticks of rebar in it, and poured concrete over the whole thing.  The leveling took me the longest... and then it took 3 - 60 pound bags of concrete!   That surprised me -- I was sure that I had done the math wrong on how much I would need, but indeed -- 3 bags.  Just the mixing of it made me glad that I had mentally committed to only doing one pad per day -- uff da.

I was going to stamp in the year like I did on the footings for my steps --

or some other funky design, but in the end I didn't.  Frankly it was really hot out and I got lazy.  And, only the little corners will show anyway -- the pad will mostly be covered up by the concrete blocks.  (Queen of Rationalization still reigns.)

I figure I'll let it set up for a few days and then I'll put it all back and snap another photo for your viewing pleasure.

I also plan to paint the barrels.  They are old food storage barrels, and being plastic I was told there is a special type of paint that they will take.  Of course the name escapes me... but I still have my paperwork from the rain barrel workshop so I'll look it up.  Bright blue isn't exactly in my backyard color wheel.  I mean, it could be... my gazing ball is that color, but ... it's a lot of bright blue.

On a totally unrelated note -- I was hand watering out front this morning, and eye-spied a fat and happy caterpillar on my 5 foot parsley plant.  Surprised I looked closer... and found another one.  And, another one.  And... yes another one!  Four.  Fat.  Happy.  Clearly I haven't been paying attention because they have to have been there for days.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Living Simply

Here's a sampling of what's been tumbling around in my mind the last several weeks:

For more eye candy, Google "tiny houses" and then click on "images"  and scroll, and dream. Hmmmm.

Side Two

A neighbor around the corner wants to learn how to use power tools, and has offered multiple times to come and help with projects in exchange for learning.  She came over on Friday and we built the second frame for my back steps.  Having a second set of hands for the corners really made a difference -- it turned out much better than the first one!  She was a quick learner.

I'm leaning towards not putting anything in the middle -- I like them plain and clean I think.  It won't give me the privacy block I was hoping for, but even with the middle empty it gives me more of a visual break than I bargained for -- bonus.  What do you think?  (I need to relocate that little blue grill....)

I may want to try this in the middle...

We also began retro-fitting one of the benches for the dining table.  I hope we can work on those again this week, schedules permitting.