I Just Call It Nesting

A lovely little spot to sit and relax in our bedroom suite. This is the room our bed used to be in.

A friend asked me the other day what I was doing for self-care. The answer is a little odd, but, in times of stress, I tend to nest.

I guess I wouldn’t consider it self-care, because I’m inevitably moving heavy furniture in and out of rooms, pushing, shoving, and generally creating a mess of belongings that need to be re-distributed throughout the rest of the house.

Since the eldest has moved out, well, even before, I had promised my dear husband a bigger room for his office. He is the main breadwinner, yet he has the smallest room (other than a bathroom) in the house for his office.

A view from the “inner room” to the new sitting room and the hallway beyond. And my sweet Bella, sitting pretty as you please.

I suggested we move his desk into the room vacated by Danielle and possibly put the treadmill in it as well…and maybe the dog cages too. And then the small old office could fit a double bed, nightstand and maybe a dresser. It would be cramped, which was kind of perfect. It gives off that “you are welcome to stay, but not for too long” kind of feel.

Instead, the old office is now a mess of two dog cages, a large aquarium, and a treadmill lodged in the middle. So much for that guest room…

Meanwhile, while we were moving furniture around, I had a vision for how I wanted our double bedroom to look. Our room consists of two 12×12 bedrooms with a wide opening between them. And for the last couple of years, the king-size bed has been in the “outer room” which is closest to the hallway. The bed filled the room, giving it a cramped feeling, and the dog kennels and treadmill in the “inner room” made it a hodge podge of underused space.

So we switched things around, putting the king bed into the “inner room” and turning the “outer room” into a place for my dressers and a sitting area, complete with the marble-topped table that was displaced by my dad moving into our front parlor.

I spent the day on Sunday moving things about.

Now that I have a proper sitting room, I think I need to get to work on putting something on those blank walls. What do you think?

The marble topped table that was in my front parlor before my dad moved in. The wooden sculpture was created by my maternal uncle and The Little Engine That Could was a mantra of my parents whenever I cried and said I couldn’t do anything. It kind of symbolizes how I live my life – never give up!

Posted in Historical Home, Home Decorating | Leave a comment

Sometimes It Takes a Village

Dad looking spiffy now that he is clean-shaven and had a bath.

Well, folks, I’m back home in the States, albeit $4,000 and eleven pounds lighter.

My dad’s finances were drained by the three different hospital stays and medical expenses. I spent money I didn’t have getting there, staying there, and coming back.

All in all, it’s been a lot of stress, with plenty of challenging moments.

We flew back on New Year’s Day and that was an exhausting experience all on its own. We spent a day recuperating (sort of) and friends came over and were kind enough to give Dad the bath he had been looking forward to so much.

The front parlor has room for two chairs, a twin bed and a desk. He has everything he needs. I even found curtains for the transition into the living room.

Yesterday, however, was spent waiting in a clinic, then going to the ER at Truman Medical Center, and ending with an admission to the hospital. They are concerned about his weight loss, anemia, and possible internal bleeding.

I’ve managed two nights’ of halfway decent sleep – the first in over two weeks. And I will be leaving soon to visit my Dad in the hospital.

I am an incredibly independent and resourceful creature. I scrimp and save, and do whatever I can to make those dollars work for me. But this? This has really pushed us to the wall. My dad doesn’t get much in Social Security and we are also facing penalties for him not signing up for Medicare Part B at age 65. (He was in Panama and thought he would stay there forever, so it made sense at the time) Also, he won’t be eligible for Part B for six months, so any non-hospital fees are completely on him (and consequently us).

The pocket doors in the front entry open and allow easy access to the front door or the bathroom.

I need help.

He needs help.

If you have any to spare, even ten dollars, it would help. In a few weeks, I’ve got a credit card bill due that is rather…intimidating. And I can use all the help I can get.

Here is the link. I hope you will be able to help and also to share it with your friends and family. It would really make my day.

GoFund Me for Dad’s medical expenses

Meanwhile, I’ve been nesting and doing my best to create a safe, comfortable and welcoming room for him in our house. We took these photos yesterday…

He might be in the hospital now, but today or tomorrow I hope to bring him back home where he belongs.

He told my husband that while he was in the Panamanian hospital, he saw patients surrounded by family. He said that he realized then that he might die, alone, without anyone who loved him. He told Dave, “Thank you for opening your home to me.”

My dad and I have had our differences, and I have no illusions that it will be smooth sailing from here on out. But I know this – his presence in my home is a welcome one. For as long as he has, I hope that he knows he has a place here in our lives.

That is what I want for my family.

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And…I’m in Panama

Sunrise – shot from the first flight from Kansas City to Houston

For those of you who aren’t connected with me on Facebook…SURPRISE! I’m in Panama City, Panama!

Leaving Houston on the way to Miami

That sounds much more upbeat than what it has actually been. See, this hasn’t exactly been a touristy fun kind of visit.

I didn’t get to see the Panama canals, but I did see plenty of container ships leaving and heading for the open sea.

My dad has lived in Panama for about 15 years now. He’s an American citizen, born here in Missouri, but he has always loved traveling.

A shot from the taxi window – Panama City, Panama

As he has aged, and reported falling and various other medical issues – like diabetes and the vision issues that often accompanies diabetes – I have worried. But my dad is rather obstinate (that is a significant understatement, by the way). He has lived his life on his terms.

Camilo, the taxi driver who is a friend of the owner of the house I’m staying it. Camilo keeps trying to teach me Spanish. And I’m a willing but incompetent student. “Oh Christina, tu Espanol es pequito mal!” Yes it is, Camilo, yes it is.

Last Monday, December 19th, was to be a “writing day.” The kiddo was off at a friend’s for a playdate, my husband was working, and I, I was going to hit my current manuscript full force.

By 12:30 I had over 1,200 words written and I took a break to eat a bit of lunch. At 12:45, just as I had resumed writing, the phone rang. I looked at the number, didn’t recognize it, and considered not answering.

This is Timothy, my dad’s childhood bear. Timothy travels everywhere with Dad. He has never left him behind.

Too many years in call centers and in offices precluded that. And I’m glad I did, because the person on the other end was a friend of my dad’s calling to let me know he was very ill and currently in a Panamanian hospital.

My dad in Hospitale Santa Fe in Panama City, Panama.

Less than 48 hours later I was on a plane flying out of the country for the first time, terrified of the situation I would find, and completely lost in a foreign country. Did I also mention that my knowledge of the Spanish language is pretty much nonexistent?!

A street near the house where I am staying

There have been many ups and downs since as I struggled to orient myself in Panama City, deal with bureaucracy and medical issues, and even the task of finding food and transport and lodging.

It has been a terrifying, stressful, and sometimes exhilarating ride – and it isn’t done yet.

View of the Panama City skyline from my dad’s doctor’s office

I’ve had to deal with issues like – expired visas, learning how to care for my father, arrange for tickets, and monitor his medical issues with as much dignity and respect as I can.

My father is practically a skeleton, has aged decades in just one short year, and is suffering from out of control diabetes, severe malnutrition, a head wound, memory issues, prostate issues, bowel issues and is very frail.

A view of the Panama City skyline from my dad’s doctor’s office

Our plane tickets were purchased for the earliest possible departure date, Sunday, and I have just one piece of paper left to procure for Immigration. I have managed to secure the help of one of his friends here, Nanci, who speaks very good English, and my new friend Camilo, a taxi driver to make sure we make it to the airport on time.

There have been so many dragons to defeat and mountains to climb in the past eight days since my boots hit the ground here. I can’t do it justice in just one post. Suffice it to say, my life, as well as the lives of my children, husband and dad are going to change significantly in the coming weeks and months as we learn to incorporate my obstinate and willful father into our family dynamic. I will be learning what it is to be a caretaker too. Our lives are changing in a massive way.

I’m also going to write a book on this whole experience. I’m titling it, “When God Laughs.”

That fateful Monday, I had declared the day to be a “writing day.” And you may have heard the saying, “Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.”

This artwork that I was working on the day before THE CALL hits too close to home with the idea of travel and roads.

More later, when I’m back stateside.

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Since I Can’t Afford Custom Clothing

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For years I’ve dreamed of being able to afford custom, handcrafted clothing. And despite my many and varied skills, sewing is NOT in my wheelhouse.

A hem or two, but that’s it.

Eventually I'll add some vines and more flowers to this.

Eventually I’ll add some vines and more flowers to this.

So I have pined for the artsy fartsy look.

It kind of goes hand in hand with the whole writer/artist vibe, don’t you think?

And that’s when it hit me. If I can’t afford to buy custom-made clothing, why not take some of my favorite outfits and make them more special?

And as always, necessity is the mother of invention. I happen to love comfortable, easy living clothing and when my favorite pieces succumb to stubborn stains, I’m bummed.

The other day I noticed that my favorite slouchy green sweater had not one, but TWO holes in it.

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And this came at a particularly opportune moment. I had just made up a potential class list and had one class on the list that I needed to [ahem] master before teaching it! I cut the pieces from a wool sweater – 7 itty bitty petals, 10 medium petals and 16 larger petals. A few minutes and one stick of hot glue later, and Ta-Da!

The other day I was distressed to find that my absolute favorite asymmetric shirt was riddled with stains. So I began to draw. It will need a fair sight more before it is done, but I think it is looking GREAT!

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And all of this led me to thinking about an Etsy store. I bought a few name brand shirts at Savers, my favorite used clothing store, during one of their 50% off sales. So I paid around $3-$6 per shirt. I will decorate them and then post them for sale on the Etsy store. Here’s crossing my fingers and hoping this works. I could use a few extra dollars in the kitty!

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Posted in Crafts and Creations, DIY | Leave a comment

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

“It’s beginning to look a lot like FISHMEN. Everywhere I go!” Cue the H.P. Lovecraft Society’s A Very Scary Solstice and I am now firmly in a festive mood.

One of the pleasures of owning this big, beautiful, drafty old house is our annual Christmas decorating adventures. It takes at least two full days – one to clean the house, and the other to install the tree and decorate it.

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And that’s just the downstairs.

Need a photo with Santa? We've got you covered!

Need a photo with Santa? We’ve got you covered!

At some point, I hope to set up additional trees and decorations upstairs in various rooms.

The dining room mantel always gets the Christmas village

The dining room mantel always gets the Christmas village

For instance, I would like to find a 4-5′ tall artificial tree for the library/office which I will decorate in a books/writing theme.

The countdown to Christmas (pic taken a few days ago)

The countdown to Christmas (pic taken a few days ago)

I think it would be fun to add a tiny tree to the main floor bathroom which held miniatures such as bars of soap, tiny Christmas towels, and other bathroom themed decor.

A mix of the old and new. A snowflake montage in the background I made a couple of years ago, with old wooden cherries hung on a velvet tree. I don't remember a Christmas without those cherries.

A mix of the old and new. A snowflake montage in the background I made a couple of years ago, with old wooden cherries hung on a velvet tree. I don’t remember a Christmas without those cherries.

And then there is the kitchen. A tiny tree with little whisks and graters and such in the window.

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Or the art room – paintbrushes, tiny art pieces, and more.

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The utility room…

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By the time I’m done figuring out all the rooms – Christmas decorating will take a full WEEK to complete!

A big thanks to Dorri, a friend and neighbor who brought me this music box and collecitble Santa last year.

A big thanks to Dorri, a friend and neighbor who brought me this music box and collecitble Santa last year.

And don’t get me started on the Haunted Graveyard I’ve been dreaming of doing each Halloween for YEARS now.

A special ten-year-old little someone hung these stockings for her big sister and for her sister's dog, Ludo.

A special ten-year-old little someone hung these stockings for her big sister and for her sister’s dog, Ludo.

Let’s face it, holiday decorating is a lot of work, but it is fun too. Especially when we pull out the “festive” holiday tunes. It’s hard to get grumpy over all those strings of Christmas lights you have to test when you get to hear the dulcet tones of A Very Scary Solstice belting out “And on his hands he has orifices and he doesn’t have a head!” to the tune of I Want to Wish You a Merry Christmas.

You gorgeous beast, you!

You gorgeous beast, you!

And now I’m sad that I didn’t schedule us to have a holiday party!

A new addition

A new addition

Next year, folks. Mark your calendars for the second weekend of December of next year. I guarantee we will have a fabulous party then!

The front parlor mantel

The front parlor mantel

Posted in Historical Home, Home Decorating | Leave a comment

And Then Again…

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I’ve had ups and downs in my teaching business. And with a few “downs” in a row, I had decided to stop offering classes.

Sometimes all it takes is a cleaning to give me perspective.

As you may remember, I run a cleaning biz. For a select few, I scrub toilets, wipe down countertops, and barrel through stranger’s houses with a vacuum and microfiber in hand.

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And as I scrubbed a particularly nasty toilet today, I thought, “Do I really want to add MORE cleaning clients to my schedule? Do I really want to, you know, scrub more toilets?”

And the answer was, predictably, “No, I really don’t.”

I make better money teaching classes.

“But it is more stress.” I tried to reason with myself. “I’m constantly having to reinvent new classes.”

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For now, I’m simply thinking of doing one class a month. Hopefully, that won’t be too bad. Although, if I can woo one of my big hosts back into the fold, then I will have 20+ locations that would be interested in hosting my classes. That’s a lot of repeat customers. So we will see. It could work out.

Life is flux.

What would YOU like to see me teach a class on?

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Hey, Let’s Build a Fence!

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I have dreamed of enclosing this property with a nice tall privacy fence ever since I moved here.

Having the last lot that wasn’t ours be used as a thoroughfare for folks taking a shortcut from one block to the other didn’t help.

Something like this...

Something like this…

Nor did the guy who preferred to stop in the middle of said lot and pee…in broad daylight.

Or the guy who my husband caught doing something a little more…stinky…in the pre-dawn hours.

Or possibly this...

Or possibly this…

And then there was the guy who walked his dogs straight through the middle of my property TWICE in one day. Both times the dogs were lunging and snapping at our chickens as they bulldozed through the yard. And yes, the second time earned him a rather loud and irate, “EXCUSE me, but could you please STOP walking your dogs through our yard?” from me.

And with our increased and contiguous property comes the ability to have our friends Jay and Michelle boondock their RV here. Staying here they will be close to The Cottage, and centrally located for more work opportunities in the area.

We aren’t going to enclose everything. Not yet. But we have come up with a strategy for putting in an inexpensive fence on the entire back border of the property. It will be a slight ‘L’ shape since we will need to connect into our dog fence on one side and then run it the entire south border length, connecting finally to our neighbor Dale’s fence on the west corner.

This should make him happy. He was complaining a couple of years ago about the folks walking through the properties and having the back sealed off will stop that once they realize there is no longer access off of the alleyway. I think he will feel safer too.

We are doing our best to get along with him. And with Jay here (I call her our Dale-whisperer), I have little doubt that we can swing him back over to the “good neighbor” side of looking at things.

It will be a simple fence. However, we can paint the boards in the spring. And then I plan on planting vining plants along the length of it – climbing roses, clematis, honeysuckle, morning glories, wisteria, trumpet vine, hardy kiwi, and more in areas where there won’t be any gates.

I think that a total of three gates – two sixteen feet wide and one four foot wide – will work perfectly. You can see them marked with thick black lines on the schematic along with the approximate placement of the RV, which will be nestled in the back of the property for optimum privacy. The green line is the fence (although it will be five feet in from the edge of the alley per code).

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We are planning on installing the fence the second weekend in December. What do you think?!

Posted in DIY, Garden Planning | Leave a comment

Drink This!

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

I woke up today at 6 a.m. and immediately headed to the kitchen to get the Caramel Pecan Cinnamon rolls ready and baking.

We have just a few minutes to go until we get to enjoy these scrumptious treats.

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I had recently been struck with the question, “What do those yummy flavored creamers consist of?”

I peered at the label of one through my glasses and stopped trying to read the ingredients after several multisyllable monstrosities: sodium caseinate, dipotassium sulphate, sodium stearoyl lactylate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a writer, I love multisyllable monstrosities. I just don’t like to drink them.

I resolved to finish my current monstrosity and then buy no more. After all, I have plenty of milk and heavy cream in the fridge already, I figured I could learn how to whip up some creamer in no time.

I Googled some recipes – this one, in particular, was quite handy. It gave me a good base to go on, and, of course, immediately do my way.

I gathered my ingredients this morning after I popped the cinnamon rolls in the oven. It was time for coffee and I was out of creamer!

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As you can see, I shop at Aldis. This looks like a commercial for Aldi’s, but hey, if they provide good prices and good products, why not?!

This was my maiden voyage, so I still need to work out the kinks. I’ll tell you what I did and then I’ll tell you what I plan on doing in the future.

Chocolate Almond Creamer

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Mix everything together except the cream and shake well or mix with a whisk in a small mixing bowl. Mix until the cocoa has completely dissolved. Then add the cream, gently stirring.

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This creamer is so good! I will be trying other recipes out, but I have to say out of the gate for first time ever making this…YUM.

It took two minutes and I know every ingredient in it.

Changes I will make: Next time I will take a few minutes more to make a double batch and heat it gently over the stove to dissolve the sugar into the mixture. Make sure not to let it boil as that will affect the taste of the cream.

Enjoy your Turkey Day, everyone. I know I will!

Posted in Baking/Cooking, DIY, Recipes | Leave a comment

Land and Zentangle

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The Last Lot

I am excited to announce that today, Tuesday, right before Thanksgiving, we will finally purchase the last lot, a sliver of land that sits between the end of our five lots and The Cottage, making our property contiguous.

You can see it in green above.

It is approximately 25 feet wide, but it is such a relief to finally have it. Eventually, we plan on fencing the entire property with gates at intervals for easy access/egress.

I have a couple of other plans floating around in my brain – but details on those are still bouncing about, so I’ll just leave you wondering.

Meanwhile, I’m excited to be able to use the entire space without worrying about where our border ends and where someone else’s border begins. This also brings our total space up to over 1/2 acre.

Hmmm…what to do with all of this space?!

Zentangle Project Revisited

A few years ago when I first learned about Zentangle and explored the art form, I quickly fell in love with taking it off the page. I put it on wooden apples…

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I put it on wooden eggs…

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And then I discovered Permawriter pens and began experimenting with them on fabric. This project, in particular, took me a while to get up the courage to try, but I was so happy I did…

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Knee-high Converse boots

It took over 40 hours to complete these, but I love them!

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Soon after I finished these boots, I realized I could no longer find Permawriters. I had started a new project…

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This is a long-sleeved green cotton shirt in my size.

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And I needed more pens to continue working on it…

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I found more Permawriters after months of searching! These are 03 size instead of the 01 (a finer point) that I was working with originally.

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Despite it being a bigger size, I can still do most of the detail work.

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Last night I delved into Season 1 of Blindspot on Hulu and got to work increasing the size of the zendala above.

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I guess all of those tattoos inspired me!

Posted in DIY, Garden Planning, Historical Home, Zentangle and Doodle Art | Leave a comment

Necessity is the Mother of…

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Tomato soup.

Okay, to be honest, it wasn’t really necessity so much as I was in the mood for tomato soup and I had already promised it.

It went something like this.

Every day that my contractor and friend Jay works, I make sure to feed her lunch. Often it is leftovers, but we didn’t have anything except chicken salad, and so yesterday I suggested grilled cheese sandwiches and, thinking I had some, Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup from Trader Joe’s. Jay’s wife, Michelle was there, and she made sounds of approval at the mention of tomato soup.

I went through the pantry and fridge three times before giving up. There was no tomato soup.

“Why don’t I try and make some?” I thought to myself, “How hard could it be?”

I looked at a recipe in one of my cookbooks, got the general idea of it (tomatoes, cream, and spices), and started pulling out supplies. I didn’t have any fresh tomatoes, but I figured diced canned tomatoes would work.

That’s probably more of the “necessity is the mother of invention” – don’t have fresh tomatoes? Use canned!

Here is the recipe I came up with:

  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ounce sundried tomatoes (I used some stored in oil)
  • 1 Tbsp parsley
  • 2 tsp Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp fresh-ground pepper

Put the ingredients into a blender or food processor and puree. Heat the puree in a saucepan on the stove just until it boils. Serve with fresh bread or grilled cheese sandwiches.

I’m never buying pre-made again. This was so easy and stomach-filling good!

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Now Anyone Can Find It

In my bathing retreat on the main floor are some shelves my uncle once made. He passed away around seven or eight years ago, and I am lucky enough to have several handmade pieces of his. These are simple shelves, and I am sorely lacking for storage space in the main level bathroom, so I store things in baskets.

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The problem is, no one but me knows where to find anything.

EVER.

“Ask Mama where the hand towels are.”

“Christine, where are the light bulbs?”

“Mama, I didn’t know where my bath towel was, so I used yours.”

[sigh]

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I pulled out some of my old Encyclopedia Brittanica pages and used a little Mod Podge on some gift tags. After they dried overnight, I wrote the categories on the tags and tied them with a little twine onto the baskets.

And to my family I say, “Here’s your sign!”

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Posted in Baking/Cooking, Crafts and Creations, DIY, Recipes | Leave a comment