Category Archives: Making my House a Home

A Time to Start Fresh

I haven’t gotten to experience much of the darkness and stillness of winter.  Living in California, there isn’t much reason to go inside to escape the cold and the snow.  Here, life simply moves on at the same pace year round with the early dark of daylight savings time offering one of the few clues that winter has come.

Still, I have been feeling introspective during the last few weeks, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what 2013 will bring and what I want it to bring. 

 Looking back at 2012, I feel like I did a lot of overspending with time, money, and activities.  I’m really good at biting off more than I can chew, so this year I want to focus on simplifying my life.

I am very lucky to be married to a man with an advanced finance degree.  He is fantastic at managing our finances and ensuring that we are saving for retirement.  That said, I often find myself buying things impulsively, which is not a healthy habit.  With this in mind my first resolution is to

Spend with intent.

Juan and I have talked about it and we will be creating a budget and sticking to it.  We’ve spent the last year tracking where our money is going, and based on that we should be able to create an accurate and achievable budget with money set aside for the unexpected and ways to save money for bigger purchases that we know we will need to make in the future.

I also want to learn some new skills.  Specifically, I want to learn some of the things I remember my grandmother doing: canning and preserving food, growing more of my family’s food, baking bread, and so forth.  I suppose these would be considered homemaking skills, but like many skills our grandmothers had, they seem to recede further and further as technology and mass-production continue to expand.  These skills also tie into my first goal because doing all of these things regularly can be a big money saver.  In order to preserve these kinds of traditional enterprises (and even not-so-traditional ones) I would like to

Learn some advanced homemaking skills.

Student cooking in homemaking apartment in Lod...
Student cooking in homemaking apartment in Lodge, 1917. (Photo credit: Cornell University Library)

It would certainly be easy for me to learn how to do these things from the internet, but there is so much love and sisterhood to be gained from passing knowledge down directly person-to-person.  Unfortunately, my grandma is half and continent away, so I can’t learn from her directly.  Thankfully, I have a group of local mom-friends, each with her own set of skills and passions, all willing to share.  We’ve created a small group, a Mommy University, to help connect moms who want to learn with moms who want to teach.  Not only will we all learn new things, but we will also connect with each other in new ways and have time together to unwind and have fun.

I also want to find more ways to give back to my community.  It’s so hard to find time to give back between working at the office and being a mommy and a wife and trying to eke out some time for myself.  Still, despite the hard work that it often entails (and perhaps because of it), there is something healing about volunteering, so I will

Volunteer for a local organization once a month.

A coworker invited me to help out at a local horse rescue organization, and, though I don’t know much about horses, I’m excited about getting started.  And maybe I will learn another set of new skills along the way.

Some things I will not be able to change.  I still have to work full-time.  We still have to rush, rush, rush with work, school, daycare, and everything else.  That is our reality and that won’t change.  Wanting it to change only makes me sad.  So here is my final resolution:

Find peace with what I have.

I suspect this first resolution will be the hardest and also the most important.

Do you have any goals for the new year?  Did you make any resolutions?

Ignore the top shelf. I didn't start taking pictures until after I finished it.

My Excuse for Not Blogging this Weekend

You might have noticed that I didn’t post yesterday.  There’s a really good reason for that!  You see, the spring bug came by my house and bit me.  I spent the weekend working like a maniac on spring cleaning.


I didn’t exactly clean the house.

But I did organize the pantry!  And that is a big job!

Part way through, I decided to take some pictures so that I could share the shame of my pantry with the public.  Because I’m wild and crazy like that.  So here goes!  Are you ready?

This is what my pantry looked like before I got started.

Ignore the top shelf. I didn't start taking pictures until after I cleaned and organized it.

It’s blurry because I wanted to hide just how filthy it was.  Not because I am a horrible photographer.  Yeah.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

It doesn’t actually look so bad from here.  Let me assure you, though, that it is bad.  Behind the books (that fell out every time I opened the door) were piles of junk.  Stuff we never, ever used.  Ever.  The bottom shelf was a total junk shelf.  I don’t even know what that is piled up on the middle 3rd shelf from the bottom in this picture.  And the second shelf from the top?  That’s The Spice Shelf.

Oh, let me tell you about The Spice Shelf.

Back in my youthful and carefree days, I used to cook Indian food.  It’s so delicious.  It requires so many spices.  My spice shelf is incredibly well-stocked.  Trouble is, I can’t find any of my darn spices.  This means, I end up thinking I’m out of oregano and I purchase another bottle only to find that I’ve already got an open bottle plus another new bottle waiting in the wings!  It’s a problem!  Plus, a lot of my spices are 9 years old.  You stick your nose down in them and you can’t smell what they are.  Stale spices do not a flavorful meal make.  Here’s another problem.  That area over on the right?  That’s where my oils and vinegars live.  Those guys sometimes drip.

Here’s a shot of the shelf once I emptied it out.

Oh, my. Would you look at that grunge?

I guess it doesn’t seem so bad from here.  I mean, that could just be where cans and bottles scraped the shelf right?


Oh.  Oh, no.

Oh, no. Oh, nonononono. I mean... Why? It's just... No.

Yes, folks.  That is what the inside of my pantry was like.  Gross.

I cleaned it with vinegar, followed with a grease cleaner, and finished again with water and some more vinegar.

In the meantime, this is what my kitchen looked like.

As my mom says, "Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better."

Poor, organized Juan seemed very concerned that the kitchen would stay like this for the rest of the week.  I tend to get sidetracked, you see.

But I managed it.  I got my shelves emptied and cleaned.  Items that were previously in floppy, sloppy bags, I decanted (that’s a great word) into tidy mason jars. I think I may actually be in love with mason jars. In fact, you might see an entire post in the future in which I wax poetic about the awesomeness of mason jars.  Just you wait and see!

Ignore the top shelf. I didn't start taking pictures until after I finished it.



I have restored the shelves to their former cleanliness.  I tossed the old, stale spices.  I placed a plastic place mat underneath my oils, vinegars, and sauces to catch drips.  I have added a variety of items that we don’t use at all to the donation box.  I freed up enough space to put the baking pans, muffin tins, and cookie sheets into the pantry where they will be easy to reach.  The snacks are down where Gabi can actually get to them if she’s hungry.  I made space in my other cabinets so that things don’t fall out when I open those drawers.

It looks good!  It feels good!

It may not look that different from the outside, but if you stick your head inside, it's like a whole other world!

So that is why I didn’t post this weekend.  Legitimate excuse?  You be the judge.  I’m just glad I can find the oregano now.