Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


More Small Steps

I feel like I've been doing a reasonable job harnessing my enthusiasm to get things in order since Christmas.

We had a productive family meeting last week where we divided up household chores and established something of a schedule, which makes me very happy. Of course, we haven't begun the schedule yet and we know that saying about plans and contact with the enemy, but just having something (a plan) where there used to be nothing (chaos) counts a progress. I'm also slowly crossing small, irregular jobs off my list.

One thing that I did this weekend was a small chore that I've been meaning to take care of for years. Literally for years! It took less than five minutes. Home security experts advise homeowners to replace 1/2" screws in your deadbolt strike plates with screws 3" or longer so the strike plates are secured to the house's frame instead of the doorjamb. You can also replace the whole deadbolt, replace the wimpy two-screw plate with a four-screw style but even just changing out the screws in the existing hardware makes your deadbolt lock a ton more effective. I had some 3" wood screws left over from last year's planter box project. Zip, zip, DONE. Improved security.

Lest I seem like I'm patting myself on the back excessively, I'm not expecting anyone to be thrilled to read that I've replaced some screws, remembered to clean the oven, changed some light bulbs. I'm just pleased to be checking off a number off little things that had been piling up. Even small forward progress is satisfying.

I've also been trying out a bunch of new recipes since Christmas. I've had some decent luck with some recipes out of a slow cooker book I got for Christmas, from the author of the blog http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/ and the current issue of Bon Appetit as well as my tried and true go-to Cooking Light. Here's what we've been eating around here: Spaghetti and meatballs all'Amatriciana, Breakfast Risotto, Crockpot Lamb, Morning Glory Muffins, Spaghetti with Fennel, Ham and Lentil Soup, Turkey Orzo Soup, Cooks Illustrated's Turkey Tetrazzini, Three-Cheese Baked Penne, Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Fritatta from Eating Well, and Alton Brown's Cheesy Grits. Not a bad start to the new year!

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Kitchen Re-org 2010

Kitchen Re-org 2010
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
I wasn't lying when I said I was thinking organization. Ha!

I did the same thing in January 2009, but things had slowly grown out of hand again, so I decided to build on my successes and do another reorg. Putting the booze into its own cabinet freed up an entire shelf in the pantry, which inspired me to get another couple of organizational do-dads (like tiers for the canned goods). Half-used bags of rice or beans or other "bulk" items were combined (like with like) and put into new clear, air-tight containers. I'd previously bought a bunch of metal canisters but I could never tell what was in them or how much and often bought things I already had because I couldn't be bothered to dig to a back shelf and open canisters to check. The new set-up is definitely an improvement.

Kitchen Re-org 2010

I also put an additional rack in the laundry room (where I'd added two wire storage shelves last year) which nicely hold other dry goods. One of the problems I had with my previous storge "solution" was things in bags (like pasta or beans) were getting lost in the bin system that I'd tried to set up. I moved all the bagged beans and rices to clear jars or plastic storage containers and put bags and boxes of pasta as well as jars and bottles (maple syrup, pasta sauce, various nut butters) on the new laundry room rack. Eventually I expect that will become even more of a true dry goods area.

I only uncovered a few things that had gone past their expiration dates due to being pushed back in the pantry (a couple of shelf-stable tofu boxes and some nuts) but I did uncover a surplus of cornmeal, grits, and dried beans. I'll be working to get those supplies down to a reasonable amount now that they've been rediscovered.

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Nikchick's Thinking Organization

...must be January.

I'm not sure what it is about January that drives me into a re-org frenzy. Nothing to do with it being a new year or resolutions, I think it's more that the holiday season (my birthday, Thanksgiving, Kate's birthday, Christmas, the New Year) brings a bunch of new stuff into the house. Gifts come in, food and drink and other holiday entertaining essentials spring up, decorations are dragged out from the nooks and crannies where they've been stashed all year... and as I look at the new untidiness in the calm after the storm it's organization time.

A major relief has been getting the plumber in to finish the work of closing off our heating system from our potable water system. Our super nice plumbers came in and replaced all the piping in the water closet with lovely copper pipes and fittings, stuck a heat exchanged and pressure gauge on the heating side and replaced our ten-year-old water heater with a nice new tankless system. When they pulled out the old expansion tank it was rusted inside and full of water, a sure sign of impending failure, and I was glad to have them take away the water heater while they were at it rather than keep the thing and have to revisit this whole issue again in another few months or a year. The heating system, now that it's closed off and held at a lower pressure, only holds about three gallons of water. In the future, should any leaks spring up they'll be easily discovered because of the pressure gauge and with only a few gallons of water in the system the risk of catastrophic damage is removed.

A bonus to having the water heater out of the tiny water closet is that I have a tiny amount of extra storage! It's not much but it's enough to have a place for my brooms, mops, buckets and other small cleaning items, which were previously crowding my already crowded laundry room. (As I discovered when I had to replace my washing machine, the room is just barely big enough to hold a modern washer and dryer and still have room to open the door.)

Anyway, despite our decluttering and organizing efforts in 2009, the bottom line is that we still just have too darn much stuff! I've also reached my limit on how much cleaning and organizing I can take on myself. I'm allergic to dust and shirk dusting duties, but that just means the dusting doesn't get done. I spend several months in 2009 nursing a shoulder injury that made things like even drying my hair with a towel, chopping vegetables, or scrubbing pots a painful experience. I got the thumbs up from my physical therapist to go back to normal routine at the end of the year but my first foray into vacuuming the house and scrubbing the bathtubs left me hurting. My loving family does what I ask (most of the time) but we have very few regular, assigned chores and absolutely no schedule. Instead of continuing to try to be supermom who either does it all myself or takes the blame when things don't get done, I've been looking over options for assigning chores and creating a schedule. I have a pile of organizing books and home upkeep books beside the bed. Now that Kate's back from her dad's a family meeting is in our future. I haven't decided exactly how the chores will be divided but we're going to build on the organizational successes of 2009. Here we go!

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What "Girls Night" turned into

It took me a while to realize it (like "Hey, why the heck is this cream I just bought bad already?") but it's confirmed, my refrigerator has died. The freezer side is still working a bit but the refrigerator side is definitely dead. I think the freezer took longer because it was packed with solidly frozen meats and whatnot and it gets opened far less often than the fridge.

So instead of going out tonight with Kate to see the new Indiana Jones movie, I ran out to the 24-grocery and bought half a dozen bags of ice and a new 52-quart cooler to supplement the coolers we already have. Kate helped me take all the beverages out of the small fridge we keep stocked with drinks for game night and we put as much of the perishable stuff (meat, cheese, milk, juice, the fresh strawberries I just bought... the raspberries had already started to go bad. :( ) as we could and then rearranged things in the little freezer to accommodate as much of the meat and seafood from the big freezer as possible.

I've now got the big new cooler mostly full of ice to supplement my inferior old coolers. One small cooler is full of jars and tubes of things like anchovy paste, mustards, jams, and other condiments. The bigger cooler has more of the same plus things like unopened yogurt containers and other things that are sealed and water-repellent. I also have a large bin full of all the sodas, beer, water and other drinks that were in the little fridge. Those can get warm and be re-chilled later, they'll be fine. I haven't been able to figure out what to do about the fresh vegetables that won't survive in ice water. For now I've got them in a smaller container with some ice packs but I think I'm going to be eating a whole mess of broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and other perishables this weekend.

Kate was a huge help in handling this mess. She was having a grand old time, in fact. "Now THIS is exciting!" she enthused. After all was said and done I collapsed into my computer chair with a drink and fired up my browser. "Going to Twitter?" she asked. "I already did," I replied. "Writing the Mom's List?" she guessed. "Already did," I responded again. "Going to blog about it?" she tried again. "Yes!" I was laughing at this point. She knows her mom well. Then she cracked me up offering me suggested titles "You should call it 'A fun start to a fun weekend.'" she offered. Then she launched into a story about how she was looking up a recipe at school on my recipe pages and how this led to her explaining to her classmates what blogs are and that I had one. I guess I may end up with a few new 12-year-old readers. Heh.

Not sure what tomorrow holds. Could be a repair place can work some magic on the machine, but the fridge is 8 years old and it might just be time for a new one. If I have to go fridge shopping this weekend I just hope I don't have the problem I had with last year's washing machine fiasco...and that they haven't built new refrigerators so big that I can't fit mine in the space allowed (like nearly happened with the new washer). Kate will be excited that more "fun" is on the horizon. She already said excitedly, "A new refrigerator means a refrigerator box, right?!" Oh dear.

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It's been an exhausting and action packed week around here!

Last Friday was the birthday extravaganza and all that I've already shared about that.

Saturday Kate and I shopped IKEA and started on the revamp of her room. Since then I've put together a new dresser, a new computer desk and one of two sets of shelves. We've gone through all of her clothes, sorting into piles for donations and keeps. I relocated her computer set-up, removed the closet doors from one side of her double-wide closet, mounted a light fixture on the wall and helped her organize several large boxes of random crap into the categories of junk, donations, and keeps.

Sunday Chris surprised me with brunch at Serafina. The owner recognized me (from having brought the Green Ronin staff in during the summit), welcomed me back and sent out my dessert item with a birthday candle in it. Awww.

This work week has been intense, as I was able to get Miva Synchro working (thanks to the dedicated brainstorming of Steve P.) just in time for our new merchant service account to demand attention. Argh. If it's not one thing, it's another... but I've seriously spent weeks chasing down these problems and at this rate I'll be lucky to have it sorted before Thanksgiving.

I've also taken possession of my new couch, found a home for the old couch (by the skin of my teeth), successfully Freecycled Kate's old dresser, and spent several days dealing with Whirlpool, which culminated today in FINALLY receiving my new washer! It's installed and functional and everything. (I was beginning to think I'd never see the day.)

In the midst of all this, the family managed to sneak out for a night and have dinner with John and Jenny, see their palatial new retro-pad, witness for ourselves the progress of their latest project. They surprised me with an abundance of birthday cupcakes, a book I've been wanting to read, and, joy of joys, the key to the car we've been referring to as the Pay It Forward car.

Tomorrow I have to squeeze in a call to Payquake about our converted Miva account before meeting Michelle for lunch (postponed from my birthday) and then take Kate up to her dad's for the weekend. Saturday my old couch is scheduled to be picked up (and thankfully removed from my kitchen!). Sunday it's retrieve Kate. Monday it's a dentist appointment for Kate that I'm trying not to freak out about and parent/teacher conferences in the afternoon.

Tonight I'm treating myself to some red wine and pork ragu over pasta. This week has produced the solution to two big problems, a couch, a car, and (FINALLY!) a washing machine. Whew!

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Deliveries: the continuing saga

Kudos to Macy's! They gave me the date for my delivery up front. They called with the time the day before, just like they said they would.The delivery guys arrived on time and had my couch unloaded, in the house, and set up in 10 minutes. No fuss, no trouble. It's exactly
what I wanted, where I wanted, and when I wanted. Even made in theUSA. Yay Macy's!

I flip the double bird to Whirlpool, though! After giving me the wrong date originally and then standing me up and making me wait anotherweek, scheduling me for delivery yesterday in a time slot that I couldn't accept, after offering me the 3-7pm time slot tonight... they showed up! On time! I met the two guys at the door and suggested that they might have an easier time of it if they pulled around back and happily said that yes, this was going to work great... they took my
washer off the truck, unwrapped it and IT WAS DAMAGED. They couldn'tdeliver it after all because it was dented in in the back! OMG, can you believe this?!

The guy was very cautious with me when breaking the news. I don't know if he expected me to go ballistic or what. I'm pretty sure all the people at the local delivery center know my name by now. I shocked him because I just started laughing. I couldn't help it... it's gotten SO ridiculous at this point. He promised me that he would get back to the person at the office and they'd get something worked out for me, yadda yadda. And, to his credit, he seems to have called her right away because I just got a call from a very dour woman who also clearly expected to be read the riot act or something, too. She is going to "get the order to drop first thing" with the ordering people in Memphis so that they can have a washer for me tomorrow, somehow, and "if we have to have someone bring it by in a pick up truck, that's what we'll do." So they say.

Meanwhile, Steve at Miva Merchant continues to get high, high marks for customer service. After three weeks of chipping away at my Miva Synchro problem tonight marked what appears to be the end of the ordeal. I've successfully synched the 8000 orders that couldn't synch before, I've also updated all outstanding customer and product information. They've also gotten our conversion to the new payment processor set up. I just have to familiarize myself with all the bells and whistles. Tomorrow I can begin the long-delayed "step two" of my "fix the Internet" plan...bwah ha ha ha ha.

Now I'm going to open a bottle of wine, zap my new Nature Creation shoulder wrap in the microwave for a minute, and snuggle down on my new couch to watch some TiVo.

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Wind, Rain, and Bitter Disappointment

Gusting wind and lashing rain up on Beacon Hill today. Yuck.

Received a call from Whirlpool about scheduling the delivery of my washing machine, finally! I've been hanging on by fingernails trying not to have to resort to another trip to a laundry service or a day of Flexcar rental and yet another invasion of Ray and Christine's house to abuse their appliances.

I waited around all day last Wednesday for nothing and tomorrow was the next earliest time I could get them here. They called this morning: they'll be by to deliver the machine between 4pm and 8pm. Except no one will be here because I was not warned that they would do deliveries as late as 8:00pm (not to mention the uninstall, haul-away, install portion on top of the delivery itself... they seriously expect me to agree to let them START that at 8:00 at night?) and not only do I have to pick Kate up from soccer practice at 4:45, but I also have to bus up to Queen Anne by 6:00 and I have dinner plans that involve picking up the new family car we are acquiring!

Yes, it looks like we're getting a car of our own, a flat out "leisure vehicle" that is for things like picking Kate up from soccer practice or going to the post office. We'll still Flexcar for some things, Chris will still commute by bus... but with the Flexcar/Zipcar merger and the state of Washington's punitive and wrong-headed "rental car tax" on Flexcar use, it behooves us to have a back-up option of a privately owned and operated vehicle. The timing was right, as friends were getting rid of their old car anyway. For the price of a new alternator, it was ours... and I have an appointment to go get it Tuesday night.

So, no washer for me. Again.

The woman said she'd call back "in a few minutes" to find me another delivery date almost an hour ago. I'm not holding out hope of seeing my washing machine before Thanksgiving at this rate. Sob.