Divine Bird

I believe in a high-fiber diet…like wool, alpaca, cashmere…

January 3, 2015
by Jenny
1 Comment

New Year, New Perspective, New Journey

So two things prompted today’s blog post.

First, it’s been over a month since my last post, and there has been significant progress, which I’ll get into in my next post. December has been a month of ups and downs, which I suppose is life in general, though this last 30 or so days has been particularly rough.

The other thing was a comment that appeared this morning, tagged to my last post in November. I’m going to quote it here in its entirety because it has given me such strength and motivation after that aforementioned rough month. I feel like I should print it out and frame it so I have something to lift my spirits whenever I read it. From Dracoangelica, who found me through Tumblr and UFYH as I began this crazy project:

I started following your blog last year when I was going through my UFYH tag on Tumblr. I was so impressed by how much you had to do and how much you completed, that I became like, just addicted to reading about your progress.

I love those make-over home shows where they go in and in three days have a house going from zero to hero, yet we who live in the real world KNOW that nothing gets that way so quickly. We as viewers off an audience don’t see the dozens of workers that were in and out of a place to get it where it is ‘tv ready’ and I always wondered how people who HAD all those things went from living in total chaos to perfect oasis without backsliding. No habits are formed, no true routines put in place on those shows…so I always wondered if any of those people are able to keep it looking nice afterwards.

What you’re doing isn’t like that at all. Instead of ‘biggest loser’ where you have some professional coach coming in and putting a plan in place, YOU are the one handling it. Daily. Slowly. Tediously, yet so so noticeably.

I know we don’t know one another outside of the internet, but you really are one of my biggest inspirations Jenny. I admire how far you’ve come in a year and I’m glad you’re keeping up the blog for me to see. I hope Dashing feels better soon and that you continue to post the befores/durings/and afters as you reach your goal. If it takes you five years, I’ll still follow and read up on your progress. Happy 2015! Good luck and I can’t wait to see what you post next.

I admit it, I cried a little. I needed to hear this today, and it appeared at one of my lowest moments, which only increased its impact on my mood.

Over the years as I have worked on this blog, I have had some pretty incredible interactions both with people I know and people I don’t. Despite my quiet little corner here, I have had the pleasure of meeting others in my journey to…well, wherever it is that I’m going. So before I launch into a new year and all its possibilities, I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for encouraging ME, for inspiring ME to keep on with my plans and dreams. Today I feel a little less like I’m speaking into the aether and more like I’m just having a very slow conversation with far-away friends. Thank you, thank you.

Next post arriving in the next hour or so…the house cleaning continues with an all-new angle and plan for the New Year 2015!

November 21, 2014
by Jenny

Cleaning House: Progress on Several Fronts

November 2014 has been — well, I’m not sure how to describe it. Dashing is still sick, so that brings its own stress and worry. I picked up some editing work that will help us cope in the meantime, and I’ve applied for a job that could be amazing if I get it. My Nanowrimo project has only moved forward a few hundred words at a time, though I’ve been able to make the writing meetups on Fridays. So while I won’t win this year unless a miracle occurs, I’m content with the progress I’ve made.

The one thing that is definitely going right is the progress on my house. Every day sees a big change in some fashion. I’ve been good about moving things out and putting in at least two or three hours of work every day. If you ever visited me in the past, you probably wouldn’t recognize a lot of the house now.

This project hasn’t been easy. After my last post, I had a day when I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that still needed to be done. I was at that point where the cleaning looks worse than the original mess. Feeling a little despair, I took a breath, poured myself some cider, and sat down to make a list of the things that still need to be done. Quantifying the work helped more than I expected. There’s a lot less to do than I thought. With that in mind, I counted up the tasks and the days remaining in November. Even taking two days for Thanksgiving into account, I could do one list item per day and be finished by the 30th. I would love to have Angie all moved in by then, too, so I made the 30th my goal. It’s not a deadline, because I know I’ll procrastinate against it if so. Instead, if I get this house in order by the 30th, I get to reward myself with a day trip to Boston to see a museum’s textile exhibit. So…onward to the 30th!

From this point forward, I’m going to score each section on its level of completeness. To get off to a good start, I’ve already got two areas that are 100% done!

The Entertainment Unit

I found some perfectly-sized fabric-covered bins at Ocean State Job Lot, one of those discount chains, and now all of our movies — Angie’s and ours — are together. We housed them on the “entertainment unit”, which is made up of four sets of wire shelves lined up together. The Wii, PS2, and PS3 are all set up, with all the PS3 and Wii games together in some green fabric bins I already owned. The printer moved to its new home on top of one of the shelves, within reach of both a power outlet and the standing desk that’s going on that wall soon. No more dragging it out when we need it, while it remains tucked out of the way the rest of the time. Since one of the shelf sets included a pair of wire drawers, all the game controllers, extra wires, and memory cards can be stored in there.

Eventually, my dad and I are going to built a single long top to go across all four sets of shelves, unifying them further. I’ll make a curtain to hide the stuff underneath, since they’re all different colors and the wire doesn’t really feel “cozy” as I want the living room to be. But for now, having all the movies and games organized with proper homes is enough. Even if it’s not pretty, it’s organized and easy to live with.

That said, I think this part of the house can be considered: COMPLETED

The Kitchen

Nearly two weeks have passed since my mom and sister helped me organize and clean the kitchen, and it’s still spotless. Everything truly has a home, so when I use it and clean it, it goes back into its home. No more crowded cabinets, no more duplicate items that take up too much space. Today, my dad came over to finish up a few small tasks like fixing my broken lazy susan and installing the last cabinet door hinge. With all the large surplus items like my dehydrator moved to a shelf in the basement, there’s nothing left for me to do. I might rework a few things and I would still like to replace the solid shelves in my pantry cabinet with rolling ones, but that’s all minor stuff that isn’t necessary to make the kitchen run properly.

Therefore, I am happy to declare that the kitchen is now: COMPLETED

The Man Cave

The Man Cave is coming along well, if slowly. On Tuesday, Lisa came over to move shelves and the dining room table to the Man Cave, and when Angie arrived, we moved the rest of the cube shelves. That meant the board games could finally be put into their new home. My living room closet looks so empty now! Throughout the week, I emptied a few boxes of Dashing’s stuff by putting books in order on the shelves. I’ve been trying to give him little tasks that he can do while sitting or lying down, so he went through all his magazines. We’re getting rid of more than we’re keeping — he’s getting the hang of this whole cleaning thing!

I can’t rest on my laurels yet, though. The Man Cave needs quite a bit more work. The video games need to be organized and placed on their shelves, the game systems have to be set up, and the rest of the boxes need to be emptied. There’s also a lot of music to go through. Dashing and I both had large CD collections. It’s time to cut them down and maybe start ripping the CDs into MP3s instead. Until then, the CDs have to find a home.

At this point, the Man Cave is perhaps 50% IN PROGRESS.

The Road Ahead

As I write this, I have seven full days (taking away Wednesday and Thursday next week) to complete this cleaning project. Steady work and a dedication to moving things out of the house quickly have helped me to stay on track without getting overwhelmed too often. My friends and family have been supportive, too — I know for a fact that I would have dissolved under the pressure months ago if it wasn’t for the help of so many other people.

Here’s what’s left on the list:

  • Clear out hallway & set up bookshelves; move books upstairs
  • Set up new studio space
  • Move fabric & fiber to new homes/clear out old studio
  • Cover up A/C opening/Put up crown moulding/Fix baseboard in Angie’s room
  • Hang artwork
  • Mail out packages
  • Go through last boxes of papers
  • Finish putting Man Cave together
  • Put up risers on basement staircase
  • Hang curtains over closets & set up bench in bedroom
  • Finish sorting & donating clothes

Some of these tasks won’t take long, and some will take a whole day to complete, but I can do it all. I will have help for almost all of it. The 30th is on its way, but I want that trip to Boston so badly!

Ever onward!



November 15, 2014
by Jenny

Cleaning House: Permanence

I may have written about this before but I can’t find it in any of my past posts, so…I think I know why I’ve been so driven to clean and organize so much.

It occurred to me today that I finally feel like I am here for more than a few months. This is funny when you consider that a) we bought this place in 2009, so I’ve been living here for over five years and b) we actually own the condo, and aren’t renting it. Basically, when we leave here, it will be to move to another permanent residence in Maine. Aside from that, we’re staying.

With the exception of my childhood home, this is the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place. Since moving out on my own in 1994, I have lived in eleven places. That’s about one move every 1.3 years. Three times, I moved within the same building or complex. I think my shortest stay was maybe three months in one apartment, and my longest was two years in another. So for fifteen years, I didn’t set down roots anywhere. I knew that the chances were pretty good that I’d be somewhere else the following year. For at least five or six years, I had a storage unit that I paid for. Sometimes we stored our stuff in friends’ and family’s basements or attics. Sometimes we just piled everything in the corners of the room and hoped no one would notice.

As someone with many hobbies and interests, it was easy to add to my collection. I worked at bookstores, fabric stores, and office supply companies, so tons of stuff followed me home. I’m finally seeing just how much stuff there was, and it’s daunting when I think back over how many bags, boxes, and bins have left my house for donation. Nevermind the equally daunting amount of trash.

On Sunday, my mom and sister came over and we completely transformed my kitchen from a dysfunctional, crowded space with overflowing cabinets into a clean, serene room that WORKS. It amazes me every day now. I walk into the kitchen in the morning and I know exactly where everything goes. Even when I unload the dishwasher, everything has a place, so there’s no need to leave things out on the counter or stuff them into a random cabinet. It’s a dream to cook in there now.

In order to reach this state, though, I had to get rid of an entire minivan’s worth of dishes and other things. I severely culled my plastic container collection to a few matching pieces. The three of us just kept putting things out on the dining room table so I could see them, make my decisions, and put everything away.

But of all the work we did, you know what boggles my mind the most? It’s that every single one of my coffee mugs is on the shelf.

I don’t have any in “reserve”. There are none packed away for “someday”. Even the two Christmas mugs have a spot in my kitchen, out of the way but easy to reach when I’m ready for them. For fifteen years, I have had mugs in boxes because I had too many to keep out, and nowhere to put the ones I really liked. I kept thinking, someday I’ll have a real kitchen and all this will fit.

Dudes, I HAVE a real kitchen. It’s mine, in the house that I pay for. This isn’t a temporary thing anymore, it’s real. It’s permanent. It’s — dare I say it — home.

And I think that’s why it’s so important that I finally unpack everything. Why am I keeping stuff in boxes in the basement if I’m not using it right now? Why are my books still boxed up? Why am I living as though I’m going to move out when the lease ends? There is no lease. This is my home, my permanent home for the foreseeable future, and I am sick of treating it like it’s just another apartment. My art should be hanging everywhere. My clothes should be organized and easy to sort. My dishes should have a place where they belong. This is it! The rooms aren’t going to get bigger, so I should take advantage of every square foot I have. There isn’t going to be a “better” place next year, and honestly, I don’t want there to be. I may dislike some things about condo life, but those are far outweighed by the really amazing stuff. I love this place! I love being here, I love my orange kitchen and the view from the back window. It’s time to make this house my home.

So anyway. This epiphany may seem obvious to others but it hit me hard today. I’m so excited about finishing things in here. Each day, something gets put away, given away, or thrown away, and the house feels more open because of it.

I wanted to be done with my cleaning way back in March, and that didn’t happen for various reasons. But the end of this project is in sight now. I am going to finish it this year, maybe even by the end of November, if I can keep up the momentum.

It’s going to happen.

I think I really live here now.

November 9, 2014
by Jenny
1 Comment

Cleaning House: Still At It

I’m straddling the line between “oh dear gods I will never be done” and “oh, hey, looks like there’s an end in sight”.  The improvement in my house is not immediately apparent to the newcomer, but to me, it’s definitely there. I am extremely lucky to have made friends who will travel for hours, who will dedicate days, who will break down boxes and egg me on when I don’t want to do the dishes. I can’t imagine getting where I am now without their help.

So where am I now? I’m at the stage where the cleanup is still worse than the mess, though stuff is still leaving the house apace. I have to schedule another VVF pickup, and I will be sending out lots of gifts to friends as I destash and cull my collections further. The living room and dining room are being rearranged now. The dining room table still needs to be taken apart but I’ve left it in place for the time being, because on Sunday afternoon, my mom and sister will be coming to help me organize the kitchen. I figured we could use a work space. On Monday, though, I think it’ll be time to move the table for real.

Today, my dad came over and spent a couple of hours replacing outlets in the former studio, hanging a kitchen cabinet that has been in my basement since we moved in, and putting up some rails to hold my cooking pots and pans. I cannot tell you how much I adore those rails. All of my most commonly used cookware is now hanging up and out of the way. The cabinet is looking great over the fridge; it’ll be perfect storage for stuff I need occasionally.

In the living room, we shifted the couch and green chair, then brought down my leather chair from the studio. I adore this chair; you may remember my post about it from earlier this year. Now I have my comfy space to work in. We also moved the black bookcases from the wall to the center of the room, then placed the buffet against their backs. They form a low dividing wall and turned my area into a sweet, cozy library.

After the kitchen is done, I’ll focus on getting stuff out of the old studio and put away down here. We still have shelves to move and bookcases to arrange, and the Man Cave is far from finished, but…I can envision the rooms in a finished state. I love knowing that when we’re done, there won’t be any spare stuff lying around. It will all be beautiful, useful, or important to us. It’s happening, albeit slowly. We just have to keep moving forward.

FYI, Dashing is still sick, but we get to see the doctor again this week. Really hope he has some better news for us. Dashing’s contribution to the cleaning effort has been mainly “moral support”, cheering us on from his spot on the couch. He wants to do more, but once he starts to move around or sit up for too long, he starts to hurt again. I won’t let him carry anything for fear that he’ll strain himself. When he gets better, maybe then I’ll let him help out. :)

SO there you have it–progress is progressing. Stuff is getting done. There’s a lot but less than I had to do before, and I have a definite plan. Ever onward!

October 31, 2014
by Jenny

Cleaning House: Bins and Donations

Just had to post that as of today, I have gotten rid of 15 boxes, 5 garbage bags, and two huge bins full of stuff. The local Vietnam Vets group picks everything up and I even get to arrange for it online! It feels SO GOOD.  All that stuff is gone! I’m taking two boxes of manga to a comic book shop that gives store credit, so that will be gone soon, too.  Things are moving slowly but they’re moving, and that’s all that matters to me. :)

I’m working on the basement a bit today, but this weekend is all about spinning at the Fiber Festival of New England. Looking forward to seeing a bunch of my fiber friends soon!

OH! And it’s Nanowrimo time again–I’m participating this year. Are you? Join me and write the novel that’s been lurking inside you! :D


October 22, 2014
by Jenny

Cleaning House: The Basement, Part II

A few days have gone by since I started on the basement, and progress is definitely happening down there. I’m in the “oh my gosh this is so dull I hate this” phase, which is the part where I go through all the boxes of papers to make sure nothing valuable is being thrown away. It’s worth the trouble–so far, I’ve found three checks that I never cashed and $50 in cash in an unmarked envelope.  All were mixed in with random papers. Every so often, as I do this mind-numbing chore, I ask, “WTF, ME?”  This is a reminder to stay current on my paperwork and to get rid of stuff I don’t need. I moved with some of these boxes at least three times; boxes of papers are heavy and take up space.  Why did I do this to myself?  One entire box was nothing but old mail and grocery lists and the like, none of which were dated past 2004. Ugh.

On the plus side, I have found a few bins of supremely entertaining stuff, like the full bin of nothing but pristine-condition stuffed animals. These will be distributed among my friends with kids (and a few who, like me, never completely grew up).  Another bin held dice, cards, hair things, old poetry, and about a dozen pairs of earrings that I thought I’d lost forever. Some were earrings I adored and actually missed over the years, believing them lost. I also found two gorgeous strings of pearls and, in a small, hinged, ceramic box with a tiny latch, my missing engagement ring.

This is the incredible find of the year for me. Of the decade, really.  I thought this ring had been lost about a year after we got married and I no longer wore it. (Perspective: our 13th anniversary was Oct 13.) My wedding ring was too wide for me to double up, so the engagement ring went into a box (apparently) and then I promptly lost track of it. I was always very sad about this, because we spent a long time looking for the perfect engagement ring, while we picked out our actual wedding rings almost on the fly. I liked my wedding ring, but never felt that same connection. The wedding rings we bought were cheapo $20 things from a Renaissance faire, two weeks before the wedding. They were always intended to be temporary.  Then, a little over a year ago, my ring began to react with my skin. I took it off and went without ever since. Now I have my engagement ring back, and it’s on my finger, where it will stay.

The pile of boxes is getting smaller every day. I got through two trunk-sized bins and three sizeable boxes of papers today, of which I kept one reusable shopping bag and one half-size bin of stuff. The rest was trash and donation–mostly the former.  Tomorrow’s job will be to finish off the last three boxes of papers, then start on the movie & game collection. The guys are coming Thursday to do the pickup, so I have to push a little. I’d rather not have to call them back on another pickup day!


October 20, 2014
by Jenny

Cleaning House: The Basement, Part I

I did not take pics of the basement before we started.

I used to pretend that the mess didn’t exist. I went in there to do laundry, and that was enough for me. I had a path to the washer & dryer, and one to the furnace & water heater, and that was it. I wouldn’t look at the boxes because each time I thought of going through them, I would feel real despair.

During the first cleaning session earlier this year, the basement was on the list but got bumped off when life got in the way. I figured I’d go back to it eventually, but it wasn’t until I started making the plan for this session that I realized I couldn’t put it off any longer. An empty, organized basement was actually the key to the whole undertaking.

Because I’m losing my studio room (for a good cause), I needed a new place for some of my equipment. My basement is dry and surprisingly non-dusty, so the loom and carder are going down there. To use them, I needed wall space. All of the walls were lined with bins and boxes, some of which I hadn’t opened in 10 years. If I was to make space for my fiber equipment, I had to face the task for real.

With the help of our friend Aaron, Matt, Angie, and I started the process around 11am. First, we tackled the stuff that could be done quickly: bagging up donation clothes, dusting off the washer & dryer, breaking down boxes and throwing away trash. We were a whirlwind! I tried to go through boxes quickly, and if I couldn’t, I put them aside in favor of ones I could do. We culled our TEN boxes of books down to six. Angie and I set up some shelves I’ve had for years and never put together, and now all our camping gear is in one place.  My canning supplies now have a home there, too–and I’m not worried about the jars falling over any more! Oh, and we even rediscovered a cabinet full of the paint from all the different rooms of the house, as well as a whole bunch of ceramic tiles; I think the previous owner was about to do a backsplash of some kind in the kitchen, but never completed it. I’m going to see if those tiles can be used somewhere and if not, I’ll sell them.

We carried up the donation items and made a pile next to the door.  AMVETS is coming later this week to pick it all up, so if I can stay on task, we’ll have even more ready for them by then. I have four bins of random sewing things to go through, and several boxes of papers, but the difference in that room is huge. We have a ton of space down there–enough to work in, exercise in, and properly store our out-of-season items.

It’s not done yet, but it’s a whole lot better than it was this morning. There’s a plan in place for the rest of it, too. And once the sorting is finished, we’ll move Dashing’s office around and set up the new gaming area in the Man Cave, which will open up the space for my new studio, which will let us rearrange the living room…see? It’s all connected. It’s all dependent on the basement, which got off to a cracking start today.


October 19, 2014
by Jenny

Cleaning House: Fall Edition

Sometimes, like many people, I look back and wonder, “where did the summer go?” or “did x weeks just fly by when I blinked?”  This summer has been especially bad for that, though. Since June, Dashing has been in and out of the hospital with a malady that the doctors can’t seem to diagnose; we know what is happening, but not why, and not how to treat it.  Each week has been a blur of ER visits, hospital stays, doctor’s appointments, phone calls to Disability, phone calls to doctors, relaying the latest updates to family…it’s just been a river of stress for both of us.

A few good and cool things have come out of all this; I’ve channeled a lot of that stress into spinning and knitting, which won me a whole whack of ribbons and prizes, so that was fun. I’ve also learned that Dashing actually enjoys British murder mysteries, which is something I never realized before. I know, married to the guy for 13 years (that anniversary just happened on the 13th) and there’s still stuff to discover! We’ve now worked our way through Miss Fisher, Rosemary & Thyme, Poirot, and most of Midsomer Murders.

On the bad side, my cleaning went to a total standstill. I was so proud of my progress in January, February, and March, but I took a break in April and May to plan some parties and deal with tax stuff. I figured I’d get back to it in June and July, when my work slowed down for the summer. But then Dashing got sick, and it’s been the top priority since then. I did keep up the living room closet, the TV stand, and avoided a return of the Floordrobe, which are all accomplishments.  Still, the rest of the house has suffered from a lack of attention and some half-finished tasks that have piled up.  No more!

I could say that the catalyst for cleaning now is that we’ve finally established a kind of holding pattern, where I feel like I can make plans a week out or more. But the real reason I want to finish the job is that our dear friend Angie is moving in with us at the end of November!  We’ve known for a long time that we wanted to move in with her when we eventually emigrate to Maine, but circumstances have caused us to make space for her here in the condo now. Her parents are moving south and selling their home, and we can use the financial help, so it all works out pretty nicely. That means another total reorganization of furniture, and the cleaning can no longer be put off.

This round probably won’t be as blog-heavy as the last, but I do plan to document the progress regularly. A lot of things we established earlier this year have been re-thought, such as how we use the dining room table and where I’m going to put my crafting space now that my studio is turning back into a bedroom. I’m pretty excited about some of the changes, a little overwhelmed by a lot of the work, and above all, I’m seriously looking forward to getting our new housemate. The rest of October and November are going to be all about motion…hope you come along for the ride!

September 28, 2014
by Jenny

Ribbons at the Big E 2014!

This year’s Big E was a pretty good competition in both Creative Arts and Fiber Nook!  I managed to put in several days of demonstrating in both departments, and all of my entries won ribbons of some kind. My handspun shawls didn’t succeed as well as I hoped, but once I got to hear about the judging and what they looked for, I completely understand why I placed the way I did. There were things I didn’t even think about; I will definitely think about that next year when I enter again.

But even if the highest honors were just out of my reach this time around, I can’t complain too much about how I placed overall! I ended up with three Firsts, four Seconds, two Thirds, two Fifths, and a Sixth.  I also won First place in two categories of the Spinning Bee (a timed spinning contest) for Finest and Most Consistent yarn, plus a Sixth overall. I was the only spindle spinner in a group of 11, so I’m actually pretty happy with that placement. If we get another spindler next year, I can be judged in a separate class from the wheel spinners, so that’s something else to work toward.

So here are the pics from this year’s Big E!  I can’t wait to get them all back so I can finally wear them!

August 21, 2014
by Jenny


A couple of weeks ago, my sister and I descended upon our mom’s house to make pickles!!

When I was much younger, Mom used to do lots of canning. We had tomatoes, pickled zucchini, corn and cuke relish, and sometimes peaches, jam, or jelly.  But the thing that we loved the most were her “Sweet Spears”. This time, the daughters got to learn the recipe.

pickles 2014 ready to go 2

The setup, all ready to go!

After setting up a batch of my Babci’s Polish dill pickles with my dad, N and I went out to the garage to make the syrup for the sweet pickles.

pickles 2014 syrup

The syrup smells great, but only from a distance

The recipe isn’t hard at all; it’s a lot less imposing than I thought it was. You boil the syrup ingredients – it is a POTENT brew – and then pour it over the jar of cukes, get the air bubbles out, seal the jar, and put the jar into a pot of boiling water.  After five minutes, the jar comes out, the lid vacuum seals as it cools, and you have a delicious snack all ready to eat.

pickles 2014 nettie

My sister makes her own batch

I would totally do this again. Last year, we did tomatoes, and I might be able to talk my parents into doing another batch this year.

pickles 2014 grandma

Grandma Y helps us put the cukes into jars before we make the syrup

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

While we waited for the pickles to seal up, my sister and I went through a few huge boxes of toys my parents had found whilst cleaning out their attic. That was a trip down memory lane…I’ll have a few pics of that when things settle down here. Dashing has finally (I hope) had his last hospital stay, and I think we’re getting back to normal.  I’ve also been blocking a ton of handknits and crocheted things, so I can’t wait to show them off when they’re dry.

Do you do any preserving or canning in the summertime?  Tell me about it!

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