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Category Archives: The Great Cooper Clean-Out

Spring Has Sprung

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How time does fly! March did seem to come in like a lion, and then roared right into April. Now we’re here, in the middle of Sprummer, counting down the weeks until school’s out. Craziness, I tell ya!

The wreath up there is something I whipped up right after Spring Break, when I realized that Easter was going to come and go before I ever finished thinking through all my grand ideas for a Spring wreath. So one day, instead of emptying out yet another box or basket or cupboard [yes, I’m still at it, but at a much slower pace], I sat down and started winding yarn around a wreath form that had been sitting on a shelf. The whole process was pretty improv. I had a couple of the flower petals sewn together, waiting to be glued onto hair barrettes. Since they’ve been waiting over a year, it really didn’t bother me to re-purpose them. And yes, the yellow centers are straight pins — dual purpose! I wanted to put a bird on it, or a bunny, or a little ribbon banner of some sort, but my two hours was up and there was no way I was coming back to tinker with it. Sometimes,  “done” is totally enough.

I’ve been working on several other projects this month, which I look forward to sharing soon. One of them was so exciting, but probably only to me [spoiler alert: it’s a bedspread]; I’ll let you be the judge.

 

Seriously — Out With the Old

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My mom gave me a lovely set of metal mixing bowls for Christmas. (Thanks again, Mom! And it’s an old photo — the tongs are no longer wrapped, although you know I do like to savor a gift fully before putting it into use.) Metal totally trumps plastic in a lot of ways, but the key to me is that it’s so much easier to clean when you’ve used any kind of grease. Have you tried washing a plastic bowl after eating buttery popcorn? Ugh! Drives me bonkers. Also, they look nice in an industrial way when used as serving bowls, especially considering that they’re replacing a bunch of mismatched green ones.

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I mean, they are all green, so they can be considered a “collection”, I guess? But they weren’t making me particularly happy. Yet, when it came time to swap them out for the shiny new ones…that was a little hard.

Might they come in handy some day?

Don’t I have some little smidgen of space in the pantry where they could be stashed? You know — in case of a bowl emergency?

What constitutes a bowl emergency?

Am I my own grandma? Because I hold onto things like someone raised in an orphanage during the Depression.

The Greens headed out the door to Goodwill this morning, along with a few other beautiful, perfectly good things. The load is lightening every day, friends!

Presto

Slowly but surely, I’ve set out to change or fix every thing about this house that’s not working for me. Superficially speaking — there are waaaay too many things that need fixing which I’m not equipped to take on. But the other stuff that’s been making me twitchy? Yeah, it’s time for it to go.

Have you ever noticed how much mental energy gets sapped by something that bugs you? Here’s an example, and it’s a really dumb one, but here it is:

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See that ridiculous tiny shelving thing in the corner? The one that doesn’t actually fit on the wall, and is way too short to make sense? Well, this is where I store napkins and tablecloths. It made sense at the time: The cube had been tossed out of another room, and it was convenient to have the linens right next to the table. Since it was out of the way, it didn’t really have to be perfect.

Unfortunately, it bothered me every time I came into the kitchen. Sometimes I didn’t even notice it was bothering me, but the way it cluttered up that corner aggravated me more than you would believe. It just made the whole space feel cluttered (which it usually is anyway, but this made it way worse.) Then, just the other day, a radical thought occurred to me:

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MOVE THE DARN THING!

Actually, it was more convoluted than that. I was trying to shoehorn a different cupboard from a different room [a story for another day] into this nook. In the process, I moved the recycling bin out of the space — and over into no man’s land, so that still needs to be addressed — and realized that this cube fit perfectly. And with the plant on top, there’s no way for me to crap it all up with stuff from the table!

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So much better.

What you can’t tell from this angle is that I also moved the table over closer to the door, which makes the space feel way roomier. That was a surprise, seeing as how it was only about a foot, but now the table is centered more on one of the overhead lights (which I hate, but that’s one of the “unfixables” for the moment) rather than the wall, and it feels much cleaner. Plus, Kevin no longer hits his head on the stupid swinging light, so he’s happy, too.

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I’m working on one last add-on project from last year, which has also been zapping me mentally. But! I think I can finish it this week, and then there are so very many things I’d like to get cracking on. Too many! Clearly, I need a good system for attacking them as well; working on that, too. Also, I’ve been baking with the kids. There’s more to that story, also. Oddly enough, it’s all interrelated.

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So, when I do go ahead and try to take pictures, it surely must be on the most dreary day of the month. Well, sure.

It felt so nice to finally have my cutting table cleared enough to start a brand new project, even a small one. This time, the occasion was a baby shower. Since one of my main goals was to use up some of the supplies on hand, I went with these cute quick change bags (which were inspired by these, as you will surely be able to tell):

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[The little pinwheel tag is also handmade, but not by my hands — that would be thanks to my sister, Michele.]

It was fun and super-quick to put together. I think my next project may also be a baby gift, but not the same one. Or it may be a little re-fashioning project that I should really get a jump on before I blink and the cooler weather is nothing but a fading memory. (I say that, but I think we all know that we Houstonians will be referring to this years big SNOW DAY — now with 99% less snow — for many days to come.)

As for the rest of this weekend  we have (Lord willing) basketball, Children’s Church, and maybe some fun baking. Wishing you a great weekend!

 

Presto!

I’m not sure this needs to be said at this point, but right now is all about clearing out, fixing up, and finishing. It’s going to be a running theme.

As if this is something new.

So saying, today I began with this box of squares:

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and ended with an almost finished rag quilt:

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All that’s left is the snipping and washing. The snipping is time-consuming and tedious, but is perfectly suited to break-time in front of the television. And then it’s done! One more box out the door!

You guys, it was astonishing how many times yesterday I tried to stop along the way. It’s partly that I hate to be interrupted in the middle of something, so every time I get to a natural break, it’s tempting to put the project aside rather than power through to the next stop. This one was so close to being done already anyway — those squares had already been cut, sandwiched, and quilted. All that was left was to join them together into the quilt. It took about two to three hours, hardly worth waiting all these months.

The same thing happened on Tuesday, which is to say Pajama Day. Yes, I finally finished the flannel pajama pants that were sitting cut on the table, mocking me. According to my notes, I measured the kids back in August. I’m hoping that’s not when I actually cut the pieces, but it’s close enough. Sheesh. I really do not like making those pants.  Those only took a couple of hours to complete, and in the end I had two pair for each kid. But I tried to stop when I got to the elastic casing, and then the elastic threading, and then the hems. Sure, these pants may not fit — it would have made more sense to have the kids try them on before finishing them, but they weren’t here! — but they are done.

Done is more important than perfect. These kids wear their pajama pants until they are capri length and unbelievably low-waisted, so we should be good.

Out With the Old, In With the…Old

The first project of 2014 was not an exciting one, and it certainly wasn’t glamorous.

I made dust rags.

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Okay, but I lied when I said it wasn’t exciting, because it a little bit was. See, I was cleaning out Kevin’s t-shirts, and instead of bundling them up and putting them in the laundry room cupboard for “someday”, I sat right down and made these rags. The product may be lackluster, but the process was a tiding of good things! Also, at least the cloths are useful, whereas the shirts would be worse than garbage sitting up there in the cupboard.

I don’t have a picture of the second project, but it was a selection from last year’s tower of unfinished beauties. There were five fabric gift bags all cut out and ready to go. In fact, I’d already sewed the ties and loops, which is the most tedious part, but apparently lost steam after finishing the first half-dozen bags. Anyway, I got down to business and finished the rest*. Since I tend to make errors when making something the second time around, I took it nice and slow and checked all the instructions. As a result, I managed to sew each and every tie on the wrong side. BUT! Instead of making it work (oh yes — I had already figured out how they could be “perfectly good” with the jacked up ties), I picked out the stitches and re-attached them all by hand. More good practices! More stuff done!

*Not quite the rest: One piece of interfacing had gone missing, so that bag got scrapped. Then yesterday I found the missing piece, so it may not be a loss after all. Or it still might; not sure about looping around for yet another round of these bags. Save that bit of personal growth for 2015.

Seasons Greetings

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Well, hello.

Needless to say, I seem to have hit one of those patches where I could either do something or talk about doing something, but not both. One of my main goals going into 2014 is pretty much the same as it has been for the past two years: to use what I have, get rid of the rest, and use great care before bringing in any more. This here wreath is actually a good example of putting that plan into action. Last year, I set out to make a new wreath for the front door, but couldn’t settle on anything I really liked. Actually, I thought I was so clever: Instead of just making a pretty yarn wreath, I’d kick it up a notch by finger crocheting the yarn first to give the wreath more texture. Ooh!

And then I saw someone else had the same genius idea; it took the wind out of my sails a little. Yeah, that’s as childish as it sounds, but it’s true. Anyway, this year’s version was inspired by the tinsel wrapped one on Alisa Burke’s [a user-upper extraordinaire] wreath wall. Once I started wrapping the tinsel, though, I realized that I didn’t have enough — this piece was one that didn’t make the cut for going on the mantel — so I went ahead and dug up some chenille yarn to wrap the rest. The trees and star were cut off of the wreath we’ve been using for the past few years. I love the way it turned out, and it would have only taken a day to complete had I not waited an extra week to heat up the hot glue gun.

Heating up the hot glue gun is hard. Almost as hard as whipping up the cookies I started three days ago. We’re not talking plum pudding, here — this should not be taking three days!

Paletas

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I’m sure it’s no surprise that, for me, a stellar recommendation from Heather is equivalent to the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Maybe even more so, because I don’t know much about the sensibilities of the GH testers. Anyway, when she announced her Popsicle Parade, complete with recommendations for a recipe book and molds, it also won’t surprise you that I hopped right on and ordered both. (Yes. Give me an excuse….)

For the record, happier I could not be. The molds fit nicely in my freezer, and make a very official-looking pop, and the Mexican Chocolate paleta is delicious! I’m not sure if I measured wrong, though, or what, because I had a TON of chopped chocolate and almond mixture, and just couldn’t imagine jamming the molds full of it. Now I have a bag of it in the freezer for next time, so all is not lost.

Also, like a bonehead, I dipped the molds in the a sink full of warm water to soften them up a touch. See the top of the one above? Yeah, she hadn’t really dug in yet — that’s the way the top was shaped after it rapidly started melting. Ruh-roh. Of course, with the next batch, I dipped them in cold water and had much the same result, so I don’t know. Guess we’ll have to just keep making more til I get it right! We’re all about the pursuit of excellence around here, don’t ya know.

Deliciousness aside, I’m going to tell you that this recipe in particular ended up bumming me out. See, I was even more excited to try this one out because I had everything I needed in the pantry. The box of Ibarra tablets had been languishing away in the pantry since winter. And after celebrating the fact that they were finally going to achieve their chocolatey destiny, I realized that I bought that box with the full intention of lovingly stirring up some delicious Mexican hot chocolate for the niños on chilly after-school afternoons. Yet there is sat until June, untouched and unenjoyed. Never mind that it wasn’t all that cold this winter; my shelves are filled with good intentions. That is, until they’re past their prime and I pitch whatever it is in the trash.

So, my modest goal this summer is to bust out all the “someday” stuff lying around and use it for something. And to have fun, and be lazy, and just hang out with my kids. I mean, we’re with each other all the time (all.the.time), but it feels like we’re always rushing to get something done or be somewhere. But the funny [not in a traditional sense] thing is that I don’t feel like I ever accomplish all that much, and we don’t really go anywhere. So, yeah. Less rushing and more funning and lazing purposefully. Doesn’t that sound good?

All Over the Place

I’ll tell you what: as much as I dislike March, I’m torn over how to feel about it being so close to the end already. What is going on?!

Is Easter really next week? So, there’s only a half-week of school coming up? Really?

It’s all a bit much to process. Do I still have time to make a Spring/Easter wreath? Is it worth it?

Do I even care about making one anymore? I think the question points toward an obvious answer….

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On top of that, my friends keep having babies, and even grandbabies (talk about hard to process!), and the “get this done now” clock in my head was just buzzing louder and louder until I finished up the squares for this quilt, which steamrolled its way right to the top of the list. Oh, but the relief of having it that much closer to done. Totally worth throwing closet cleaning to the back burner…except now the clock in my head it buzzing over that! Whatever. It’s always something.

But I digress — back to Easter. Which is, I say again, next week. Now, in a rare move, I actually managed to get my kids their duds before Good Friday (which really doesn’t seem like it should be the unofficial Easter finery shopping day, you know?), and I love this little dress.

Except for that tacky little daisy:

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Yeah, we can do better than that. A little fancy fabric, a little candlelight, and voila:

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I salvaged the button from the original flower, and just love love love this version. (I basically used this beautiful tutorial as my guide. Thank you, Autum!) Granted, it still needs to have the pin attached — and the button, for that matter — but it’s as good as done. In fact, the glue gun is already out, thanks to yesterday’s crazy tangent project, but that’s a story for another day. As you can see, I even made a second flower for Little Fancy’s hair. I’m on a roll!

Things are happening, friends. The quilt squares from the beginning of the tale? They are already down, stitched, and basted onto the rest of their little quilt sandwich. Happening, I say!

Keep It Going Full Steam

It would seem like my main two goals (on the making front, that is) would work together well. Number one is to use up what I have; the second is to not put a project aside until it’s finished. Decide on something, prep it, and crank it out.

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Oh, but, whoops! These squares have been sitting on my sewing table for at least a week, probably two. (Probably more, but really that’s beside the point.) Also, there’s a similar one sitting on the shelf all cut and ready to go, and that’s not even mentioning the denim one that’s sitting half on the table and half in a box below. In fairness, that one is in limbo because I ran out of materials, and not at all because I ran out of interest after cutting the first fifty-six squares from the legs of old jeans. Nooo….

You can see where this is all heading. Backward, and quickly. So, today, I decided to fight the urge to start on a brand new and exciting quilt in favor of finishing a half-done one. (Let’s not talk about its companion, please. It’ll get its turn soon enough.) And now it’s all done but the snipping, ready to be put away for next year. A small but significant victory in the war on…myself? Yeah, that’s about right.

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A couple of nights ago, I was in a sad state and just poured my heart into a post about some of the ways in which I’ve missed my dad over the six years he’s been gone. Then I woke up this morning — the anniversary of his death — and realized that the writing was really enough for me, and that the story didn’t need to go any further than my drafts folder. It can be summed up thusly:

I love my dad. I miss my dad, especially when there’s a particularly good game (it never did matter which sport) or concert on TV.

I don’t like March, but I try to make the best of it.

I can’t believe a day will come when I’ll stop missing my dad, or when I’ll stop dreading March.

No good month filled with terrible memories March.