Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Some New Year's Organizing

I just had a four-day weekend, because of the holiday on Monday, and I spent most of it at home, catching up on cleaning and organizing and dealing with everything that had piled up (literally) during the past month or so. The last two weeks of December and the first two weeks of January were very trying, with way too much time spent in hospitals and doctors' offices and stuck in bed, as well as a lot of time spent away from my apartment while Bill recovered from his surgery at his place. During that time, my brain had to recalibrate in terms of what tasks and errands around the house were really necessary, and what I could let slide so as to not overextend myself. Now that I'm feeling much better and more energetic, it was time to tackle all of the little things that had been let go.

First priority of the weekend, though, was to get out of town for a change of scenery. Portland had been having some very strange foggy weather, but the weather report for the coast was excellent on Friday. Bill and I headed west on Friday morning, and spent the day soaking up the sunshine and fresh salty breeze at the coast, admiring the incredible views from Ecola State Park, and taking in a gorgeous sunset at Cannon Beach.

Back in town, I felt very energized and spent Saturday working away on a variety of chores to get my apartment shipshape again. There was dishwashing and laundry and the usual chores, and in between those I tackled some other jobs. First, I cleaned out my desk. For the past month, my desk had been sitting open, and I had just been stuffing all manner of things into it, and leaving them there: medical bills, pay stubs, books, Christmas cards, etc. I cleared it all out, sorted through, filed away the things that were necessary to keep, recycled or shredded the rest, and organized what was left. Now I can actually close it, and it makes the front room look much tidier.

In the kitchen, I tackled something I think everyone has to face at some point: the dreaded tupperware cupboard. I had gotten a new set of good sturdy containers (mostly for freezing food in) with one of my Christmas gift cards, but there was no room left in the cupboard, which was also a total disaster zone, completely disorganized. One problem was that, having eaten through a lot of the food I canned this summer, there was a glut of empty mason jars filling up the shelves, and more taking up space on the counter. I shifted things around, and stowed away most of the empty jars behind the remaining canned goods in other cupboards. That freed up enough space to fit the rest of the jars and containers neatly into the cupboard. I got rid of all the odd containers and lonely lids too, and it all looks spick and span now. Hopefully I can make it stay that way for awhile.

The next issue was mold. My apartment gets a lot of condensation on the windows in the winter, but what with one thing and another, I had not been running my dehumidifier as much this winter as I did last year, and thus ended up with a horrifying amount of black mold on the windowsills. Ugh. So I tackled it with soap and water, scrubbed off as much as I could, wiped all the surfaces with vinegar, and then dried them and wiped on a coating of tea tree oil. Hopefully that will do the trick, and I will be much more vigilant about running the dehumidifier for the rest of the winter.

I didn't get the knitting done that I wanted to, but I did get the loose ends woven in on a baby sweater that's been sitting in my knitting basket for months, and then blocked it. I'm going to try and put snaps on this one (with a ribbon backing) instead of buttons.

 Someday I'll make myself a proper blocking board. Until then, a piece of a cardboard box, a dishtowel and sewing pins it is...

My final organizing job yesterday was to deal with my garden box. The majority of the seeds in there were packed for 2010, so they all got culled, and the remainder were organized and sorted back into the box. Then some garden planning, lists of seeds to order for this year, and a timeline for planting was made. I'm not going to be hugely ambitious with the garden this year, I have less space for doing so since a good quarter of my garden is currently taken up with garlic.

Last night, I dusted and scrubbed and swept, and got my apartment feeling sparkly clean for the beginning of the week. It's such a good feeling, especially for a neat freak like me.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Christmas Knits

I've been on a knitting binge recently, and actually managed a couple hand knitted Christmas gifts. There was some very very last-minute knitting (I finished my mom's gift approximately an hour before my parents pulled into town) but I am happy with the results (and, importantly, so were the recipients).

1) Bill's Antler Hat

The combination of this awesome pattern and some gorgeous soft heathery blue wool from the new yarn shop down the street = Bill's Christmas present. His favorite color is blue, and this yarn is lovely to knit with. Having only ever knitted one other item in the round, it was perhaps a bit ambitious, and I cast on wrong and had to re-start after doing about ten rows (I'm slow to notice my mistakes), but I had a great time knitting it. Cabling is fun, and I really really like the look of the horn cables!

I'm not the most attentive knitter, which means that I didn't pay close enough attention to what I was doing in a few places, and the result was a couple of errant cables. Whatever, it has character this way. While I attempted to measure the height of the hat against another of Bill's hats, I didn't get it quite tall enough, but he says he really likes the watch cap nature of it, not quite covering the ears. Practice will make perfect, and I am quite proud of this, my first non-baby hat. Ravelry notes here.

[Bill realized I was making, and not buying, his gift, when he turned up at my apartment ahead of schedule one day and heard me yell "No! Don't come in!" and then had the door swiftly shut in his face while I scurried away to hide all evidence of the hat-in-progress before he was allowed to enter.]

2) Mom's ridged cowl scarf

I grabbed this pattern from Down to Earth awhile back, but I can't for the life of me find the post it was in. Anyway, credit for it goes to Rhonda. I worked it with size 6 needles and 100% Peruvian wool, for a woman who loves "deep greens and blues." In fact, on Christmas when my mom opened her present, she was wearing a shirt that perfectly matched the scarf!

I did commit the knitting sin of buying two skeins from different dye lots. Whoops. Luckily, for a scarf like this the difference in color hides pretty well. I'm learning, slowly but surely.

Easy and fast to knit...maybe I'll make one for myself next time. I put this one on Ravelry too.

Now, on to finish the knitting for all of these early spring babies that are on their way!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Green Amid the Gray

I think I did a post like this last year...it's always this time of year when the gray and the rain all become too much and I go actively searching for green growing things to hold me over until we start to get a few signs of spring outside.

The new year didn't start off quite as I had hoped. Just before I was supposed to be returning to work, I was admitted to the hospital for 24 hours with a very un-fun infection. It's all in hand now, I'm being barraged with antibiotics and was able to go back to work on Tuesday. The extremely good news is that my healthcare provider/company is covering all of my medical costs (surgery plus the later hospitalization) since I am on the lower income end of things. It is a massive, massive relief that I have only my student debt to contend with as the new year begins.

As soon as I returned to work, the rain hit. It's been a remarkably dry couple of months, much to the skiers' chagrin- there's really only a couple feet of snow on the mountain, when there should be many many feet of snow. Now it's raining in town and snowing up high, and I know we need the moisture but it's hard to be grateful for rain when everything is cold and soggy and the low clouds make it get darker half an hour earlier than it would otherwise.

I headed over to my garden on my lunch break yesterday. I haven't been to visit it since the end of October, and only have garlic, leeks and collards growing. I always plant garlic in mid-October, and have never had it sprout earlier than Christmas. This year, I planted it two weeks later than usual, and it was four inches tall three weeks later. What the heck, overenthusiastic garlic? We had a big old cold snap at the beginning of December, but I hadn't yet gotten a chance to run over the garden and see if my silly garlic had survived the hard frosts.

It would seem that it has! The tips of the leaves are definitely a little worse for wear, but it all seems to be alive and growing. The collards bit the dust, and the leeks are also a little yellowed along the edges, but otherwise all seems to be well.

Back at home, my New Year's present to myself was a whole bunch of green growing things to have around inside my apartment. A big row of paper whites on the windowsill has been brightening my days and sending their nice aroma all over the apartment. Since my poor old geraniums gave up the ghost a couple months ago (they were five years old), I got three new house plants to keep plenty of green around.

I also realized it's time to order seeds for this year's garden. I haven't given the garden much thought the last couple months, but now, with the restlessness of midwinter, it is the perfect time to pull out my seed box and figure out what to grow this year. Most of my pepper and tomato seed will be several years old at this point so I'll be starting fresh with most things. Exciting!