My Trader Joe’s Holiday List

Trader Jo (whoops) Joe sells seasonal items.  Some of them sell out pretty quickly so I’m making my list early and buying what I want as soon as it shows up.

Fresh cranberries – I love homemade cranberry sauce.

I buy both dried and fresh cranberries but you can only get fresh ones in season.

I buy both dried and fresh cranberries but you can only get fresh ones in season.

Cinnamon Broom – I give these as presents to anyone with a fire place.  Last year TJs also had Cinnamon whisks which I missed out on.  This year: Cinnamon whisks for everyone!

We still have our cinnamon broom from last year and it smells heavenly.

We still have our cinnamon broom from last year and it smells heavenly.

Perugina Baci – Last year I bought a half dozen gift boxes of Baci and even saved one for us.  More kisses this year.

Bacio -- kiss in Italian.

Bacio — kiss in Italian.

 

Rosemary tree – What cook wouldn’t like the smell of rosemary in the house in winter? And it’s not impossible to start some new plants from cuttings.

Rosemary trees - so fragrant.

Rosemary trees – so fragrant.

Panettone – I’m not crazy about Panettone personally but I know people who are and Trader Joe’s is one of the best.  One year I went to an Italian bakery in downtown Baltimore’s Little Italy to buy fresh baked panettone at $30 a loaf– it was a BIG flop.  The next year I tried  TJ’s at about $5 — home run. (And now there’s mini-panettone.)

Mini-panettone — so cute.

Caramels –  To be more specific tins of “Caramels Caught in a Blizzard” is a special little gift that’s really yummy and comes in a flat tin box, a treasure in a treasure box.

Caramels

About 16 in each box, they won’t last long.

I sure some other items will make their way into my cart  so watch out, I be shoppin’.

What’s on your shopping list? Did I forget something?

The Hodge Podge Season is in Full Swing

Oh, so many things to report.

Day 2 of “Unclutter in 30 Days” is clean the shower including getting rid of the extras and empties that fall every time the curtain is pulled back.

I used my miracle soap scum remover, blue Dawn and vinegar, to clean the 60 year old tub.

I used my miracle soap scum remover, blue Dawn and vinegar, to clean the 60-year-old tub.

The above picture is really as good as it gets until we get the new bathrooms outfitted and renovate this one.  The bathroom tub is clean and decluttered.

Today’s Task
Day 3: Makeup Drawer/Bag

I know, all this for one woman. Scary!

I know, all this for one woman. Scary!

This area is really going to be a challenge since I use a lot of this stuff every day and the cabinet under the sink is already full of things.

On a more pleasant note, I spoke to Chef John yesterday and he’s having a Soup Swap on November 8th and I’m invited.

Containers filled with frozen soup ready for swapping - 2012.

Containers filled with frozen soup ready for swapping – 2012.

When I had the swap in 2012 I made “Healthy Winter Warm-up” soup but I’d like to branch out this year since I’m not hosting I won’t have extra pots of soup to make. And I have a new kitchen.

Tuesday night I went to a “Boost Your Brain” lecture given by Dr. Mahid Fotuhi, noted brain sprecialist with an MD from Harvard and a PhD from Johns Hopkins. These are some of the items I need to incorporate into my life to maintain a healthy brain:

  1. Get physical exercise.
  2. Eat a Mediterranean diet and take DHA
  3. Task your memory
  4. Be mindful – meditate
  5. Get enough sleep

When I arrived home from the “Brain” lecture I noticed the giant bees that had been buzzing around an oak tree in the front yard, congregating on the porch.

European hornet

These hornets are more than an inch long. (That’s not my hand.)

Turns out they are actually European hornets who do their foraging at night and are attracted to light.

What's the point of having beautiful lights if I can't turn them on?

What’s the point of having beautiful lights if I can’t turn them on?

So I guess I shouldn’t leave my porch lights on until they die off this winter.

Finally I tried to dispose of the wet feathers from the feather fiasco in our washing machine.

Feathers!

Feathers!

I couldn’t maneuver them from the box to a plastic bag so I just dumped them in the driveway and hope they’ll dry out and float away. After all feathers are floating all over the inside of the house.

This lazy girl just scattered the feathers in the driveway.

This lazy girl just scattered the feathers in the driveway.

In the mean time the linens I used to gather the feathers also need to dry out before I put them back in the laundry.

I'm sure the neighbors appreciate that I'm using the porch for drying sheets and pillow cases.

I’m sure the neighbors appreciate that I’m using the porch for drying sheets and pillow cases.

I don’t want another clogged filter.

That, my friends, is the clamor and glamour of my life.

What’s your clamor? Glamour?

As If I Haven’t Got Enough To Do

I found this plan to declutter the entire house in 30 days.  It might well take me 30 weeks or even 30 months but I’m going to give it a go.

At this point there is only one bathroom.

At this point there is only one bathroom.

The first 4 days begin in the bathroom.  Depending on the scope of one’s clutter I would allow about 30± minutes for each task. And be ruthless.

Since we have no linen closet nor medicine cabinet the under-sink cabinet is pretty much a shambles.

Since we have no linen closet nor medicine cabinet the under-sink cabinet is pretty much a shambles.

Day 1: Medicine Cabinet
Toss expired medications, hotel shampoos that you’ll never use, and throw out lotions you’ve had since 1990. While you’re at it, give the mirror a quick wipe, too.

Even totally cleaned out the cabinet is looking pretty gross.

Even totally cleaned out the cabinet is looking pretty gross.

I’ll focus on the cabinet under the sink since we don’t actually have a medicine cabinet.

It's nice to start with a clean space.

It’s nice to start with a clean space.

I wiped everything down and returned the wire shelves which seem to double the storage space.

We were hoarding a ton of soap under there, some that has even been eaten by mice (ew), which we don't use.  Move it to the laundry room.

We were hoarding a ton of soap under there, some that has even been eaten by mice (ew), which we don’t use. Move it to the laundry room.

After throwing away samples of shampoo and lotions which we’ll never use (or maybe we already used it and just didn’t toss it) I returned almost everything in a more orderly fashion.

Doesn't that look better?

Doesn’t that look better?

And I found something I had been thinking about recently and didn’t know I actually had.

Make up sponges.

Make up sponges.

I’m storing them front and center is a plastic tub to keep them clean.

Tah dah!

Tah dah!

Here’s the rest of the bathroom list.

Day 2: Shower
Get rid of the extras and empties in your shower.
Day 3: Makeup Drawer/Bag
Go through your makeup bag or drawer and reassess some of the items. Hot pink eye shadow you haven’t touched since 1980? Toss! Lipstick that doesn’t smell quite right anymore? You know what to do. If you haven’t used it in a year, it’s time to trash it.

Day 4: Linen Closet
Over time those neatly stacked towels start to shift and folded sheets somehow end up on the floor.  Take stock of what’s in the linen closet, straighten what you want and consider donating items you haven’t used in more than a year.

Are you focusing on getting the house ready for the holidays? A special celebration? Next year?

 

The Final Final

I told you that we had our final inspection at the end of September and we flunked. A sad state of affairs that we cannot get an occupancy permit (don’t worry we’re still living in the house) unless we pass inspection.

So much of the house is complete.

So much of the house is complete.

Unfortunately the inspector said the original permit indicated there would be 2 finished bathrooms and a finished roof deck with railing and so would not sign off on the final permit. The way around this issue was for our contractor to go back to the permit office and amend the permit. He had to change 2 full baths to “rough-in only” and “remove roof top deck”. That’ll be $25 please.

The area above the conservatory (near corner) is supposed to have a deck and a railing.

The area above the conservatory (near corner) is supposed to have a deck and a railing.

When I arrived home tonight after work this greeted me.

Do you see something on the door?

Do you see something on the door?

When I got a little closer I could see that the inspector, let’s call him “Dave”, left a lovely little piece of paper that indicated our inspection number and address(blocked for privacy) with the word “final” and the date.

We've been waiting to pass this final inspection for a long time.

We’ve been waiting to pass this final inspection for a long time.

Woo-hoo, we have received the final inspection of our “Residential Addition Single Family Dwelling Permit”. I think we’ll just dwell on it for now.

What are you dwelling on?

Feathered Filter

First let me thank Mrs. P at Craft Odyssey  for telling me that her washing machine has a filter that sometimes needs to be cleaned out. I am grateful you took time to comment.

A few days ago my washer was full of wet feathers and I thought I got most of them out.

A few days ago my washer was full of wet feathers and I thought I got most of them out.

Next let me say that my Sunday afternoon was NO FUN! Even as I write this I’m watching my washing machine go through its 44-minute cycle. After the feather fiasco my washing machine was not draining.  Naturally I had a quilted bed pad in there that was soaking wringing wet when it decided not to drain.

My non-draining front loader.

My non-draining front loader.

I googled cleaning the drain filter in a Frigidaire front-loader and I came up with all kinds of advice including how to take the entire washing machine apart. My washer is the bottom of a stackable unit so that was not the answer I was looking for.

Our dryer is on top of our washer.

Our dryer is on top of our washer.

Finally I discovered the drain filter is in the bottom front of the washer just behind the kick plate panel.  The screws to take this piece of metal off are so close to the floor that the screwdriver wouldn’t turn; I had to chock up the washer. I accomplished this myself by leaning the entire stacked unit back and sliding some woodblocks under it with my foot.

With the front of the washer supported on blocks of wood the screws were accessible.

With the front of the washer supported on blocks of wood the screws were accessible.

Unscrewing the 2 screws and removing the plate was fairly straightforward after that.  I watched this short video and found out I didn’t have to take the entire black rubber bag off the housing to get to the filter.

The drain filter is inside the black rubber accordion thingy.

The drain filter is inside the black rubber accordion thingy.

First I tried to get at it from the bottom but could not empty it.  Be aware that every clamp you loosen and gasket you remove will allow a certain amount of water to drain. I covered the floor under the washer with towels, and a plastic bag, and had a shallow dish to catch the water.

I worked most of the filter out the bottom hole to discover it was filled with feathers.

I worked most of the filter out the bottom hole to discover it was filled with feathers.

Then I tried dismantling the top of the gasket and the little plastic filter cartridge proved to be full of wet feathers.  A load of feathers, a drill bit and 16 cents was the total haul.

YUK!!!!

YUK!!!!

I picked all this ickiness out with my fingers which were gross.

I should have worn rubber gloves.  I'm disinfected now.

I should have worn rubber gloves. I’m disinfected now.A

I cleaned around the inside of the gasket with some Clorox wipes just so there was no debris where a leak might form.

The top of the gasket went on first with a clamp that tightened with a screw.

The top of the gasket went on first with a clamp that tightened with a screw.

After the top gasket which is basically screwed on I replaced the outlet tube which has a squeeze clamp.  This was a little more difficult since the space is small and my hands are not strong.  My suggestion is to get the biggest pair of plyers you can find and finesse the rubber piece and clamp onto the plastic hose all at once.

The green clamp is difficult to maneuver.

The green clamp is difficult to maneuver.

I’m still watching the washer and we’re down to 21 minutes left. So far no water has come leaking our onto the floor.  Don’t forget our laundry room is on the second floor and could make quite a mess if it leaked and dripped downstairs.

Up and running!

Up and running!

I can tell you this repair both annoyed me and empowered me. It’s always great when you can accomplish  something you didn’t really know how to do.  On the other hand why is the drain filter in such an inconvenient place? And how come I never knew before my washer even had one?

What did you learn this weekend?

Black and Tan

I have come to learn that the style of gallery wall I like best is known as the “collected gallery wall”, meaning the grouping is curated over time and assembled in one spot.

I started by laying everything -- pictures, photos, objects -- on the floor.

I started by laying everything — pictures, photos, objects — on the floor.

As I looked through my items laid out on the floor I noticed a lot of sepia tone, black and subtle colors.  I also noticed I had souvenirs from trips and photos that reminded me both of family and travel.

I moved one piece at a time into the "wall" pile.

I moved one piece at a time into the “wall” pile.

As I began to pull together just the ones that related to each other colorwise I liked the variety yet cohesiveness.

I cut out some of the shapes in brown paper and hung them on the wall between the mudroom and the kitchen.

I cut out some of the shapes in brown paper and hung them on the wall between the mudroom and the kitchen.

Going against all the rules I’m using different shapes, colors, sizes, and themes.

It's a start.

It’s a start.

Usually I’d just whack nails in the wall but this is taking more time and thought than I would have hoped. I’ll keep working.

How do you choose what goes on your walls?

I Didn’t Mean to Feather My Nest

I started an enormous project that I’ve been working on for at least 2 weeks now with the end finally in sight.  I’m washing all the bed linens that have been stored over the past year during our renovation.

We have amassed a load of feather pillows.

We have amassed a load of feather pillows.

This includes bed pillows.  I didn’t actually know I had so many feather and down pillows.  I know I personally use 5 but I have another dozen stashed in plastic tubs and decoratively on beds throughout the house.

I use lots of pillows on the bed.

I use lots of pillows on the bed.

I wash pillows in the washing machine.

Our washer/dryer set-up

Our washer/dryer set-up

They come out lumpy and matted until I throw them into the dryer with something hard (like a tennis ball or wool dryer ball, even a shoe will do) to plump them back into shape.

I washed and dried these in the machine.

I washed and dried these in the machine.

Of course I wanted to do one last load yesterday evening after cleaning out the washing machine. I put in 2 old pillows and when I walked into the laundry room to check on the time I could see something went terribly wrong.

Wet feathers --  mmmm.

Wet feathers — mmmm.

The window of our front loader was filled with feathers.  One (I hope only one) of the pillows had burst open. It was a wet, heavy mess.

Wet feathers are heavy.  At least these are clean.

Wet feathers are heavy. At least these are clean.

I pulled the feathers onto a sheet and let them sit in the bathtub overnight — they were soaked.

The wet/dry vac.

The wet/dry vac.

My first thought was NOT to clean out the washing machine so I left it open to dry overnight. I also hauled our wet/dry vacuum up to the laundry room.

Wet feathers stick to everything.

Wet feathers stick to everything.

In the morning I vacuumed all the feathers I could out of the washing machine. Then I wiped the inside down with a clean microfiber cloth to dislodge any stuck feathers.  Then I vacuumed again.

Maybe cleaner than before.

Maybe cleaner than before.

It looks pretty good. I’m sure, just like Christmas tree tinsel and Easter basket grass, I’ll be finding feathers all over the house for the next few years.

Tell me your housekeeping tragedy.