Monday, April 15, 2019

Remodeling Our Hut: Part 6 Stuff

Adding pictures of our stained glass lamps because they are prettier than the boxes and boxes of stuff I'm dealing with.

 George Carlin's hilarious and all too-true stand up routine on Stuff has a quote that is ringing very true to me these last six months:  "A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff."

Well, here we are in mid-April and things are starting to get real up in here.  I've been going through forty-one years worth of stuff we've accumulated and all I can say at this point is, HELP!  Where did it all come from?  Though our remodeling project won't be starting until sometime in June or later, I've been working on sorting through our stuff since last fall. 

 Ann has come over to help when she has some spare time, bless her heart, but she has precious little time to spare being the busy woman she is.  

Trying to be methodical, I more or less pick one room at a time.   I've finally finished working on the Christmas closet last week.  The closet isn't very big, really, since it has a chimney inside of it, but it measures roughly four feet wide by three feet deep, but as I said, there's a chimney in the middle, so not all of the space is usable.  I should look on the bright side, though, because if there was more room in it, there would be more stuff.  

I will readily admit I am not an organized person.  For years I've vowed every Christmas that I would sort through the boxes and get them organized, but then the holiday would sneak up on me and I'd concentrate on just getting the tree up and promise myself I'd deal with the mess when I took it back down again, but for the same reason I'm not fifty pounds lighter, I had yet another excuse in January.  I'll sort through it next Christmas, truly I will.   For now, eh, just put it all back in the boxes and if the door shuts on the closet, it's a win-win. 

It's tough for me because the majority of the decorations I've kept were my late mother's and I am a sentimental dimwit.  When Carl and I married, my mother gleefully lugged out the old suitcases she had stored her Christmas ornaments in and said, "Here you go!  I have no more need for these, I'm done putting up a big tree."

And, true to her word, at the age of fifty-eight, she was indeed done.  She downsized to a tiny tabletop tree and never looked back. 

I, on the other hand, was young and dumb.  I could have stopped with my mom's decorations, but did I?  Oh no. Over the years, I added more of my own.  Too many more.  We do not have the space for a big tree anyway, so I don't know why I fell for every bauble that caught my eye during the Christmas season for at least a decade, but I did.  

I finally came to my senses at around the age of thirty-five, but by then my collection was really out of hand.  And here I am at sixty-one, wondering what I was thinking way back when.  I thinned out a lot of the decorations before packing them off to temporary storage at Carl's folks' house for now.  My goal is to sort through them again before we bring the boxes back home after the remodel and pare things down for good.  (We'll see how that goes! Will I actually do it??)
Throughout this whole house cleanout, I kinda have a system.  I sort through things in our house and categorize them by destination: charity shop, recycling, dumpster, or pack up and save. Then when I cannot stand one more minute of making the tough decisions, we load up and take the donations in to the big city.  

Our next stop is back to our home to load up the boxes of stuff we're keeping and haul them to the in-law's house.  

Once the car is empty again, we start the process over at Carl's parent's house and their six decades of household goods.  I'm slowly getting through one room at a time there, too.  We do the same routine, sorting through everything and determining what should be kept and what needs to go.  In no time we have the car full again for another run to the charity shop.  We try to work it out so Carl can haul loads in after work during the week.  When he gets home at night we fill the car up again for the next day's run.

It is truly amazing how much stuff gets accumulated isn't it?  For months our house has been full of boxes coming and going.  Thank goodness Joel and Abby kept their moving boxes for us, it's made the chore much easier.   

The only thing that I'm really happy about is the fact that hopefully I will whittle down our stuff enough so that when we leave here for the last time in our lives, our sons won't have to deal with as much junk.  I've completely changed my philosophy on collecting much of anything anymore.  In fact, when I walk through stores now, all I see is stuff that will eventually be destined for the landfill.  So much stuff!

My mother had downsized when she was in her seventies, and though I have yet to go entirely through her belongings, she had everything tidy, in order, and only kept what she was actually using.  I won't have to wade through decades of stuff at her house, thank goodness.  I mentally thank Mom every day for her forethought.  She did me such a wonderful favor.  I want to do the same for my own kids, it's only fair.  

Carl and I have never seen eye to eye on stuff, but even he has now come around somewhat to the futility of keeping everything for 'someday'.  When we die, no one will want our old clothes that no longer fit, no one will darn the socks that need mending or the jeans that have holes in them.  No one will want 99% of any of the junk.  It's just the way it goes.  

I think even Carl has reached a saturation point with keeping everything; you can only deal with it for so many hours a day before you start to lose a, shall we say, cheerful countenance?  He's actually parting with more things than I thought possible, so maybe there is hope.  (More on how tough this process can be on a marriage at another time....)

My friend Sharon had gone through a move a few years ago after she and her husband built their gorgeous new home.   They also had to deal with their forty years of stuff, so she knows exactly what we're going through.  Sharon recommended that if time runs out, we just box up everything and deal with it later, when the construction here is done.  That's sort of what I did with the Christmas stuff already.  I thank Sharon for her words of wisdom on a daily basis.  

Our friend and neighbor, Gloria is in her seventies and has also recently moved from her house to a different home.  She stopped in last week with a few prayers for me to read when the going gets tough. I didn't even flinch when I let her in the house since she knows all too well what moving a house looks like.  She simply removed a couple of boxes and a roll of garbage bags from the dining room chair and sat down for a short visit.  We laughed about the process and how silly keeping all of this stuff is and afterwards, I felt a lot lighter.  

I guess this is sort of like the Konmari method of cleaning after all.  I just wasn't ready to clean out two houses at once as it does get a bit overwhelming, but hey, progress not perfection. 

We'll get there.  

As Steven Wright said, "You can't have everything.  Where would you put it?"

Thursday, April 11, 2019

April's Fooling Around Again

March is long gone and here we are on April 11th.  Spring has sprung in many parts of the country, but here today, it's snow plowing as usual.

 We haven't had all of the snow from winter melt yet, and now with the new addition of what looks to be close to five inches today I guess it will be another few weeks before we are snow-free.  The birds are frantically fighting over who gets to the bird feeder buffet first.
 On Monday, we were enjoying a balmy day, temps were in the sixties and the sun was shining brightly.  I took advantage of the breezy day to hang out my laundry for the first time since November, well, at least some of it, as only two wash lines were clear of snow.   It was weird hanging laundry outside standing in a snowbank up to my knees.  

 The nearly eight foot tall drift was down to about three feet on Monday, and I'm starting to find the lawn ornaments again.
The Quarry is full now, about the only thing we'll have going for us for the June Hosta tour.

By mid afternoon on Monday we had a thunderstorm and then it all went downhill from there weather wise until we ended up here, April 11, with yet another Winter Storm Advisory.  

On the plus side, I see that Tornado Awareness Day, which was originally scheduled for today, has now been postponed until Friday.  Who knew you can postpone tornadoes?  I think this is something we all should do.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Remodeling Our Hut Part 5: The ONE Thing(s)

As we continue to work on house plans for our modest remodeling project, I think we may be driving our plan designer just a tad insane.

  We bought our own design software and it has been a wonderful help for us, but the fact is, we're not architects or designers and we overlook the problems she can see.   We've been through at least four of the designer's revisions already and I'm sure there's more to come.  

In her last email, she urged me to actually decide on something, "So my advice, is to find the one thing in addition/remodel you can't live without...what's the one thing that we absolutely need to do and then let everything else fall in place around it."

Well, she's right, I have to concentrate on The One Thing.  Which would be?  Ummmmm.....the mudroom? 

But just as the thigh bone's connected to the knee bone and the knee bone's connected to the shin bone etc., so the mudroom is connected to the kitchen and the kitchen's connected to the dining room and, well, you get it.  It's all connected.  And six inches here or there makes a big difference in a small home.

In a way, this whole process is reminiscent of a poker game, only with higher stakes. 

Designer: 'I'll see you one closet in the mudroom but I'll raise you by losing your countertop space in the kitchen'.  

Us: 'I'll see your lost countertop space and raise you by moving the stove closer to the sink.'   

Everything is a trade off when square footage is at a premium.  We can't figure out how to put a nook in the tiny room that will look the way we'd like and still see the silly garden, so we've given up on playing nooky and are on the search for other options.  

After mulling the plans over endlessly with our friends (aren't you glad you don't have to listen to ALL of this?  Our poor friends......) I finally sent our last revision to the designer late last night.   Now we wait and see how this hand plays out.

None of the homes we've toured have been the size of ours.  I'm sure there are other new homes in the 1500 sq. ft. range still being built out there, but let's face it, they don't make it to the elite 'Showcase of New Homes'.  For the contractors, I suppose it would be like entering a Shetland pony into the Kentucky Derby; after all, you want to impress potential clients with your skills, not have them smirking. 
(By the way, what happened to the Tiny House Movement?  Apparently around here, it didn't catch on.)

The open concept is still the Thing to Have right now.  Almost every home is the same layout, the kitchen with an island and seating, a dining room table next to the island and the living room beyond.

 Though the beige couch above looks lovely, what happens when a toddler launches a spoonful of Spaghettios in that direction?

The picture below is sort of what our kitchen and casual dining area might look like, but again, this house is way bigger than ours.  I may have an island, but there won't be a sink on it because I will need the space.  

I guess what I'm struggling with here and with almost all of the open concept homes is the 'openness', for lack of a better word.
When I walk into any of these new homes, what do I see? 


The vast spaces are impressive, true, but boy, I'd better be able to keep everything neat and tidy at all times if I lived in a house like this.  There's something to be said for having a little mystery.  (And rooms with doors that can be closed.)

Oddly enough, the biggest home on the tour in my earlier post, came in at a whopping 6009 sq ft (don't forget about those nine feet!) and with all of that space, had dedicated rooms for dining and living room separated by walls.  Even though it was a mansion, the rooms felt cozier.

I have been a fan of Sarah Susanka for years.  She is the author of 'The Not So Big House' and many other excellent books on the same topic.  In one of her articles she described meeting with the owners of a large new home who were unhappy.  They had built a McMansion, I guess, and though the views and room sizes were impressive, living in it was definitely not as pleasant as they'd hoped.  It didn't feel homey.  She also observed a party she'd attended in another grandiose home and found that most of the people would congregate in the kitchen, which was coincidentally, the smallest room in the public area with the lowest ceilings.   

It's the way we humans are, we crave shelter.  Little children love tents or possibly best of all, the big cardboard boxes appliances come in.  There's something comforting about a sense of enclosure.

I liken architecture to garden design.  Though we're not award-winning garden architects by a long shot, we borrowed a lot of their philosophies when we built this random plant menagerie of ours.  Carl had the idea of garden rooms in his head when we first planted the evergreens in a series of circles in 1980.  (We always called it our very own Three Ring Circus.) 

I'm very glad he had the foresight and the vision, it is always good to have a sense of mystery of what will be found around the corner.   The picture below is a satellite view of our insanity, taken last spring, I guess, since the apple trees around the dome in the formal garden are in bloom on the left.

 When I weed around here, I simply follow the sun around, if it gets too hot in one place, just haul your weed bucket to the shade.  And when people come to visit, they can't see the whole shebang at once, there's always just a small vista to draw the eye.  (And a place for me to hide stuff we're working on.) 

Though the open concept is bright and airy, there's nowhere to hide in this floor plan.

In this article, Ms. Susanka shares everything I'm hoping for our remodel to accomplish as we both grow older here at the hut.  

I guess there's not really just One Thing after all, it's a whole bunch of things that all boil down to one Big Thing.

Aging in Place is Everything. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

House Touring Once Again

The weekend was once again spent on the hunt for the elusive small kitchen and dining room designs with over forty houses to choose from.  

I think we've been through over a dozen homes so far, and have come away with a lot of new ideas.  Seeing a design on a plan or pictures of a space is one thing, but being able to experience the room in person is very helpful.

Joel, Abby and Audrey went along with us on a few of the houses, which was great.  Joel was providing valet service right to the doors, so there was no need to try to park a car and get out in the middle of a snowbank.
 The snowbanks are very impressive, but no fun to climb over.

We decided to buy a laser measuring device which is coming in very handy for these tours (and for our house, too.) 

 Whenever I want to know the size of a room all I have to do is press the button for a measurement.  It draws a lot less attention than the two of us holding a measuring tape, and we had a lot of people ask us to measure rooms for them, too.  

There will be remodeled homes on tour next weekend, and I'm really looking forward to those.  New homes are wonderful, but most of them are quite large and they can have any floor plan they want.  Seeing the before and afters of the remodeled houses is what inspires me.  

But there's something to be said for being able to tour a 'dream home', too.  The largest home on this tour was over 6000 sq. ft. 
 This house was laid out in a more traditional Victorian pattern, with a more closed off floor plan as opposed to the very open concept most new homes have.  

 Formal dining room is just what it says, formal.

 One of the turrets houses a very bright bathroom.
 Balconies abound.
 Lots of balconies........

 I always wondered what a round room would be like, it's very bright.
 In the picture below, Joel is waving to me from the other wing of the house.

Below, Carl is checking out yet another turret room.

 What a staircase this mansion has, it was really incredible.  There was an elevator, too, in case the stairs prove to be too much.

 The front door (wait, surely they don't call this a front door?) ok, the Grand Foyer had a gorgeous chandelier and very, very shiny porcelain (or maybe granite or marble?) tiled floors.

 Coffered ceilings HIGH overhead, beautiful woodwork, all I could do was shake my head in wonderment.

Apparently there is going to be a large family living here and lots of laundry.
The laundry room was wider than my whole house.  

I really do like touring the opulent homes even though we could never afford them.  

I do think the older mansions and even the smaller, more humble homes have far more character and attention to detail though.  On our way to the next new house, we came across this older Craftsman style home.  I had to have Joel drive by twice so we could take pictures. 

    No, it's not 6000 sq. ft. but this house has so much character.

By the looks of things, this house might have once been part of a neighborhood that must have been cut apart to make room for a large school.  I would guess this house to be at least from the 1930's, but I'm no expert.  

We're just glad it was allowed to remain after the school was built.  What we wouldn't give to tour this one.......

 Sometimes as we drive around we run across homes that make us catch our breath. This house is blessed with picture perfect proportions which makes it seem warm and cozy and yet exudes timeless elegance.  

What a beauty.

They sure don't build them like they used to.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

More Snow?

 We had more snow overnight on Friday, looked to be close to another four to five inches again.  I wonder if March's snowfall will keep pace with February? 
Good Ol' Castle Aaargh, disappearing from sight.

According to the historical weather data, February 2019 is going down in the record books as the second snowiest winter in our part of Wisconsin since 1890 with 30.2" of snow in twenty-eight days.  

Approximately 130 miles north of us in Rhinelander, however, they must think we're wimps, because February brought them a whopping 61.5" of the white stuff. 

This has been the kind of winter I remember from my childhood.  As we drive around here now, in places the roads abruptly turn into near-tunnels with snowbanks pushed up by the snowplows on either side.   Last night's snow was very light and fluffy again, just waiting for strong winds to cause more drifting and worse yet, whiteout conditions.  It's been much colder than normal for this time of year, too.  We're going below zero again this week with windchills forecast to be -20 to -30F.  

Oh, well, it can't last forever.  (Can it?)

 In between snowstorms, on sunny days, we have glorious blue skies and the sun feels so good on my face.  (As long as I'm out of the wind.  Yes, that's right, for some reason, we choose to live in a place where the air hurts your face sometimes.)   
If you've never lived in a northern climate, this next bit is going to sound ridiculous, but I assure you, this is not an exaggeration...   One way I gauge how cold of a day we are facing is when I take my first deep breath outside and my nose hairs freeze instantly.  Then I know it's cold out.  As in really cold.  It doesn't happen every winter, but this year has been a real nose hair freezer.  Yessirree.

And another strange phenomena for us Northern Nuts: For the last sixty years, when I go outside in the fall and winter, I wear a very unfashionable scarf over my head that I tie under my chin (our son David always says I look like a old-timey peasant lady.)  True, it's not a great look, but I have never found a hat that could beat the warmth of my scarves.  

Last week I went out skiing when it was down below zero again.  Even though it was cold, because I was breaking trail, I managed to work up a sweat and soon my hair was wet.  I took off my scarf for the last ten minutes of the trip, and voila!  My hair was frozen instantly.  There is no gel, mousse or hairspray that can match the holding power of ice.  As long as you stay outside, you'll have a windproof, muss-proof coiffure.

Yes, there are strange fluctuations in the weather here, we can go from -30 to +30 in a few hours  (a sixty degree temperature gain!) and it's still below freezing.  But when it's that warm, I don't bother throwing on a scarf or a coat to go get the mail. Heck, 30 degrees is balmy.

Why do we stick around?  Mostly because our wet mittens freeze to our doorknobs and we can't leave until spring.  Might as well wait it out, even if you could find the car in the snowbank, it won't start anyway.



Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Another Random Winter Day

 I did a double-take this morning when I looked at this chair on the front porch; what in the world is that?  Ok, it's not something I left on the chair it's just snow melting in strips, that's all.

Wednesday was another truly random day complete with more random snowflakes, which added up to another four inches of fluffiness on top of the hard-packed snowbanks already in place. 
Door shedding it's skin?

 I didn't even try to shovel out the service door of the garage because the snow is up to the doorknob.  I found it very interesting to see the way the snow is peeling off the door, though.

One more storm and I will be able to easily step over my washlines behind the garage.  I was feeling like Gulliver today, towering over the chicken coop, even though I was up to my hips in snow when I took this picture. 

I'm running out of room to shovel the snow away from the door, so I'll have to come up with a better plan and fast.  The four foot fence post is still sticking out a bit, for now, anyway.  I left the coop door open for awhile this morning so the Girls could have some fresh air and light for a change. 

Temps were in the 20's this morning, so after checking on the hens I took advantage of the warmer weather and headed out skiing for an hour or so.  Things were fine until the sun came out mid-trip.  Almost immediately the new fluffy snow turned into marshmallow snow, building up on the bottom of my skis and bringing my already not very fast forward motion to a crawl.  Soon I had over a three inch layer of snow built up the entire length of the skis, which is incredibly heavy and wobbly to balance on.


 There's nothing for it, the skis have to come off so I can scrape them down.  Releasing my right foot from the binding, I tried to balance on the left ski while bending from the waist to pick up the right ski.  Of course, at that point, I lost my balance and my right foot sank the full length in snow.  

One thing I found interesting is how flexible I can be.  Huh, wow, I marveled, looky there, my left kneecap is almost up to my ear.  Who knew I was capable of this pose?  (And yes, I'm already paying for it.)  While I was stuck in this position, I vividly recalled another time something much worse happened. 

Years ago I was walking down the road one night when the snowplow turned the corner and was barreling down our road toward me.   I decided, heck, I'll just  hop across the ditch to get out of the way.  I was probably in my late 30's at the time, and capable of jumping a mere ditch with ease. I backed up and gave myself a running start and sailed over without a problem.  

What I didn't realize, though, was how deep the snow was until I landed on the opposite bank.  My right leg plunged down into the hard snowbank up to my crotch, stopping me dead.   Since I had jumped with a lot of momentum, my body weight was still going forward, but, alas, my submerged leg wasn't moving at all.   I think that's the closest I've ever come to breaking my femur.  

The pain shot through my thigh almost immediately and I was in a real pickle.  I managed to get out of the snow bank with a whole lot of effort and, yes, tears! and limped home where I had to explain my latest misfortune to Carl.  In no time at all, my leg started to swell, rising up like bread dough, and it was a real chore to get my wet jeans off.  

I was lucky, though, all I have to show for it thirty years later is an area of spider veins where the thigh bone had flexed the most, a constant reminder not to mess with snowbanks.

Back from Memory Lane and my current sticky situation, I was eventually able to get the skis de-marshmallowed and back on my feet and headed for some shady areas where the snow wasn't melting.  I'm going to need to look into some wax for my skis, even though they are waxless, it would help.

It was a relief to get back to the house today.  I didn't cover much ground, but at least I got some fresh air.  I wasn't done with the snow yet, though.  The chickens needed their door closed.

I skied over to the chicken coop to shut the Girls up for the night, but realized my skis wouldn't allow me to get anywhere near the door, so off they came again.  After battling with the coop door, it was time once more to crawl back to the house.  There was no way to put my skis back on in the deep snow, so I flung first one ski and then the other ahead of me, hoping to get them to land a good distance away.  Which, of course, was a losing proposition.  The dumb things just had to go sideways and bounce around, leaving me no choice but to crawl to where they landed.  

I must be in need of psychiatric help, because after all that, I'm still looking forward to skiing tomorrow. 

But, tomorrow will be different; Joel came to plow out our yard again tonight after work and brought me a pair of his snowshoes to wear, thank goodness!  I look forward to remaining upright while filling the bird feeders for a change.  (Stay tuned to see how I fare snowshoeing.)

As the saying goes, 'What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.'  

Or at least, a bit more cautious.