Jenyfer Matthews
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December 11th, 2014
Something to Talk About

If only I had something, I’d have something to say here….

It’s been a weird time for me lately… work was crazy for a while and now it’s not. We’re in a lull before another busy period comes up next year. I wish there was something between total boredom and full-out crazy but that just seems to be the way it goes where I am, which is okay for now. I’m pretty well settled in and feeling pretty good about where I landed.

The majority of my Christmas shopping is done. I forced myself to wrap some presents last night and tried to remind myself that there was a time I used to like to wrap presents so much that I would offer to wrap presents for my mother – which she gladly let me do. Now I get it because it feels like just one more chore for me to do at the end of a long day.

As I was wrapping presents last night I realized that there were some parallels to my Christmas ornaments in my wrapping supplies. I am just thrifty by nature so there are gift bags and boxes that get used from year to year… to year. Kind of funny to think about how many time some of the boxes have been used as I taped the corners back together! I might have to suck it up and go buy some new boxes… in the after Christmas sales…

I delivered the wedding quilt to the recipients… and it was never acknowledged so that did not give me the warm fuzzies. I had been regretting making the offer in the first place as it was. I’m just hoping that they are enjoying it even if they didn’t express their gratitude to me. My sister and my daughter have both asked me to make them the same quilt so I will probably go ahead and get started on another quilt soon. And I’m playing with making more bottle cap earrings in the evenings. It’s something to do with my time while I have it.

No snow to speak of on the ground here in mid-Michigan. I wonder how long that will last? I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, on many fronts…

December 1st, 2014
Tis the Season

I dragged our Christmas tree out last night. It’s artificial and comes in three sections with pre-strung lights, and every year that I manage to assemble and figure out how to plug all the various cords together to get all the lights to work – and that lights do actually work – I feel very accomplished.

I let the children take the lead on decorating – they are much more enthusiastic about it – and I just come along behind and redistribute things a bit as needed.

Some people have very decorated trees – all red ornaments or all silver. Everything matches and is just so. Ours is much more homey. There are some standard glass balls and while many were bought in sets, none were necessarily bought to match any of the others. I buy what I like, when I see it, and things have just collected over time.

Looking at the ornaments is a bit like walking down memory lane. There are the sequin and pin ornaments my grandmother made when I was younger than my son is now. There are Santa ornaments that I remember hanging on the handlebars of a bike I got when I was younger still. There are some blown glass ornaments I bought in Egypt and some others that I bought when I went to Germany at Christmastime in 2010. I have some pretty glass balls that I bought at estate sales. There are some ornaments that no longer get put on the tree, but I keep them for sentimental reasons.

All of my grandparents are gone now, as is my mother. Our family is small and pretty spread out so our holiday celebrations are very modest. I no longer feel the wonder of the holiday that I once did, but I try to fake it for the sake of my children.

November 23rd, 2014
Just in Time

The happy couple got married back in August, but perhaps my delay in finishing their quilt isn’t such a big deal since it is definitely quilt weather now.

And it’s also really gorgeous:
(click image to enlarge)

ocean currents 1

I called this quilt Ocean Currents (in my mind anyway) because of the colors but now that it is done, it reminds me more of Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night.

ocean currents 2

I think it is all the swirls.

I created a serious fabric stockpile when I was living in the United Arab Emirates and could buy fabric for about $1.50/yard and I still had enough big chunks to put a pretty backing fabric on this quilt too:

ocean currents 3

It isn’t always easy to put so much time into something and then just give it away, but it helps if you start the project with the mindset that you aren’t keeping it. And it is nice to know that NO ONE will be duplicating this gift. I’d be lying if I said I waver a few times while this one was in process – it’s so pretty! And I’ve already had two requests from family members to make them one just like this. Um…. okay – I’ll get right on that!

I might as well… it looks like it may be a long winter!

November 16th, 2014
Finished… Or Not

There were no sports events this weekend and work was quiet too so I had no more excuses not to make some progress on the stairs. I thought that all I needed to do was paint the risers and the trim and aside some adding some trim pieces, I’d be done. Well you know how that goes…

This has taken me so long, here is a quick review. This is how the stairs started. I am not a fan of wall to wall carpet in general and white carpet on the stairs? Always looks messy and is hard to vacuum:

stair redo 001

The landing was my biggest concern but once I saw this under the carpet, nothing was going to stop me pulling the carpet up!

stair redo 003

Here is what they looked like originally, before someone put carpet over them:

stairs 002

I wasn’t overly fond of the finish color and there was also paint and glue on them so I decided to strip them:

stairs 2

stairs 001

And this is where the trouble started.

The risers were not all the same sort of wood so they didn’t take the water based stain I chose evenly. So I decided to try again with a gel stain – only the directions for the gel stain weren’t working either to achieve the color I wanted. If I applied it and then wiped it off after the appropriate amount of time, it just all wiped off. In the end, I decided to treat it more like paint. I applied a thin coat and just let it dry.

The sealant was another headache. I chose to use water based sealant because it dries so much faster. However there were places near the edges of the treads along the wall where I had some adhesion issues on a few treads (I’m sure it was user error).

They look okay at a casual glance, though I do still need to add some trim pieces here and there.

stairs after 001

I am happy with the color of the treads – the dark color is prettier than the color they started. Though I admit the dark color does show dust more. The upside is that they are easier to clean!

stairs after 004

The landing was a special kind of pain in the butt because of the parquet wood grain but it doesn’t look so bad either.

stairs after 003

The adhesion issues I had with the sealant have come back to haunt me however – some came up when I removed the painters tape (along with some paint).

stairs after 002

So I have some touching up to do… along with the trim on the landing…

Also, I painted the wainscoting to freshen it up while I was at it, but of course that just made the wall above look grungy. But painting the wall means going all the way up the stairwell into the second floor hallway as well as the foyer. I’m not really up for that at the moment. Maybe in the spring. Or maybe I’ll just hire it out – like I should have done with this job! Obviously, I should stick to painting walls and refinishing furniture and leave the floors to the experts.

Ultimately, I’d love to have the white carpet on the first floor pulled up and replaced with wood. Now I’m hoping that the sealant on the stairs holds up until I’ve saved up enough to do the floors and the stairs both!

November 12th, 2014
Little by Little

There have been a few lulls in all the activity lately that have allowed me to make some progress on stalled projects.

One of those projects is the stairwell. I finally had some time to tape off the treads and prime the risers. I thought I’d be able to get the risers painted last week as well – painting doesn’t take that long once you actually start – but then I noticed how many nail holes needed to be filled. So I filled the nail holes… and then got busy with other stuff again. At my current rate of progress, by the time that I get the risers and trim painted it will probably be time to refinish the treads again…

I also made some progress on the wedding present quilt I’m making. I’m down to the last corner – 18 blocks left to quilt, plus the binding. The quilting doesn’t take that long – I can do two blocks in about an hour. It is just finding a hour to sit down and do it!

The two slatted wooden deck chairs I started this summer? Still in the garage half-way through – and likely to stay there until next summer with as cold as it has gotten now. I don’t want to sand them in the house because it is so messy and I won’t be using them until next summer anyway…

Project of the day week : getting my daughter’s tennis racket re-strung. It “only” takes about an hour. Again, the trick is finding that hour…

I really wish I didn’t need to sleep. I’d get so much more done – and maybe also have a few quiet moments to myself!

November 5th, 2014
For Every Season There is a Menu

It’s officially official: it’s fall. Frankly, when you get snow on Halloween, it is practically winter.

I have certain meals I’ll cook no matter what time of year it is, but I do have other meals I only cook in certain seasons. I make pasta all year long, but pasta salads are more of a summer meal. Anything with pesto is pretty much limited to summertime (though I do have some stashed in my freezer to break up the monotony of winter). When it’s hot outside, I tend to like to stick to lighter, simpler meals – meals that don’t require me to turn on the oven particularly.

Now that it is colder outside (40s and 50s for the highs – I know it can and will get worse!) I’m cooking my cold-weather menu – packed with carbs and comfort. My children don’t mind because these dishes tend to be packed with cheese as well. Monday I made a vat of macaroni and cheese and last night I made homemade chicken pot pie with biscuit topping.

1104141752 (2)

Between the filling and the biscuit topping, this recipe requires two sticks of butter – but who’s counting??

I also made an apple pie using some of the pie filling I put up last year. Glad I took the time to preserve those apples since my apple tree took the year off.

Soccer is done for the year, the leaves have all fallen, and I’m more or less ready for winter. Can’t avoid it, might as well enjoy it!

November 3rd, 2014
Coming Up For Air

I looked at my posts and was shocked to see how long it has been since I last posted. Also not shocked given how busy I’ve been with work. My brain has been so fried I can barely remember what I’ve done or said five minutes ago let alone find anything interesting to comment on.

And you haven’t been missing much by my not posting much because I’ve been absolutely buried with work stuff and I’m sure that my whining about being busy gets tiresome. I’m tired of my own whining. And I’m just plain tired – working nearly 60 hours a week on top of trying to keep up with all my usual mom duties as well as keeping my daughter on track with her homeschooling curriculum is pretty difficult. As you might expect, I’ve had to let a lot of things slide. Like cooking dinner every night… and Halloween.

That’s right – I didn’t decorate or give out candy on Halloween. My children weren’t home and hardly any children came to our door last year. With the cold temps and snow we had on Friday, I just gave the whole thing a miss.

I did step away from my work computer long enough to get the yard raked – for what I hope is the final time this season. I am 3/4 finished with the quilting on the wedding present I’m making for my daughter’s tennis coach. Work is likely to be a little slower this week so I am hoping that maybe I can get back to working on my stairs – maybe I can get the risers primed for painting. We’ll see.

Or maybe I’ll just sit in a chair and veg out with a glass (or two) of wine…

October 21st, 2014
Song Therapy

There are people who have a knack for remembering names and some people who have a knack for remember numbers – birthdays, phone numbers, formulas. I have a useless knack for remembering song lyrics.

I love music and listen to whenever possible – in the car, in the kitchen when I’m cooking, on the radio when I’m doing projects around the house. Even if I don’t have music actually playing out loud, I almost always have a song playing in my head.

I remember lyrics to songs that I liked but also to songs that I hate. If I’ve ever actually listened to a song I can usually remember at least a couple of lines. Sometimes it is funny and sometimes it is fairly annoying, depending on the song.

I have a friend who calls me a song therapist because I can almost always suggest a song for her when she needs a pick-me-up in times of stress. Since she and I have been friends since high school that amounts to a lot of songs over the years.

I was on Facebook last night and a “friend” there made a comment that made me remember a great “song” so I posted it to her comments and also to my profile. I like it so much that I’m going to post it here too. It starts out by addressing the Class of 1999 but it is still good advice today:

As much as I enjoy music and knowing the lyrics, it would still be handier to remember numbers!

October 19th, 2014
Prioritizing and Time Management

I used to keep a to-do list in my head which ranged from “needs to be done” to “want to do this”. The items on the list would sometimes move up or down the list as other things came up but generally speaking it was a pretty tame list and if I didn’t get something done I knew there were would likely be more time to do that thing later.

These days time is definitely not on my side. And I’m sure those of you who visit often can tell where blogging has fallen on my to-do list lately.

I’ve been needing to mow the lawn for a couple of weeks now, but I’ve been able to put it off because the season is changing and the grass isn’t growing that fast. However, with the changing season, the leaves on the enormous tree in our front yard have fallen, covering our yard. With as busy as I’ve been at work, the sun setting earlier, weekend travel, and rainy weather this item continued to slip down my list. Until Friday.

Friday I threw a reg flag on getting the yard work done for a couple of reasons: the tree is now bare; though it was windy out, it wasn’t raining or too cold; and I needed to get outside for a while. I haven’t really been outside in a few weeks except to get to and from my car.

I went outside after I cooked dinner so didn’t have a lot of time before the sun went down, and that is when I hit a catch-22 situation. The grass was a bit too long to rake it first, but the lawn mower wasn’t so happy about cutting a lawn buried in leaves. I adjusted the wheel height and went for it. The grass bag wasn’t all the effective in picking up *all* of the cuttings and leaves but it got a lot. I still ended up raking and finished just before it got too dark to see. Though my back and shoulders were a bit sore afterwards, it felt good to exercise something other than my fingers (typing). And it rained that evening so I was extra glad to get that chore out of the way.

Now for the backyard…

We’ve had a bit of frost here too so I pulled up my half-dead tomato plants and cleaned up my garden bed so I could do a bit of kitchen composting in it before the ground freezes. I’m going to have to decrease the number of tomato plants I plant next year yet again since I couldn’t keep up with them this year. I may even have some volunteer plants based on the ones that fell off and split before I got to them.

If only I could make the time to finish up the stairs once and for all. The treads and landing are stained and sealed but I still need to paint the risers and trim. I may have to give up sleep all together if I want to even attempt to keep up with all the items on my to do list.

October 11th, 2014
Beyond Busy – or How to Release Your Inner Bitch

Last week I logged nearly 70 hours for my paid employment and it will be close to 50 hours by the time this week ends (does the week have an end??) All of that is in addition to the stuff that I do as a mother and a “learning coach” to my homeschooling daughter.

People keep telling me to delegate duties and I’ve tried with mixed results. The children are old enough to do their own laundry and pick up after themselves – which they do, sometimes. However, they don’t yet grocery shop or cook or do yard work (neither have I recently) School has to be done and I seem to be the only one who has retained any knowledge from my middle school / high school years. The only area that has any give in it at all is the hours that I would normally be asleep so now I’m sleep deprived and have a messy house.

But sleep deprivation and my tight schedule has had another unintended effect. I’d like to think that I’m just a woman on a mission but it might not be untrue to say I’m a touch on edge. Perhaps a titch crabby. Things that I might have let slide at other times set me off now. Like idiots in traffic. Or the following scenario:

I left work an hour early so that I could go get an oil change and get some groceries. Oil changed accomplished, I marched around the grocery store getting all the things on my list. It was late afternoon and getting crowded but I found a no-limit, self-checkout lane right away. As I was preparing to start scanning my items, I see that there are two children standing in the next aisle over with their mother (who is at an express checkout). The children are about 5 and 7 and they are running their hands over the rollers at the end of the collection area on my lane.

I didn’t say anything because I assumed they would stop once I started to send my items down the lane – and because their mother was watching them. Nope – instead, the children start to push my items down to the end of the collection area. Hmmm… it was only cereal boxes, but still. I really don’t want them touching everything anyway, but particularly not my produce which I try to not to let go over the rollers at all. The mother is still watching them at this point, with a smile of pride on her face, but she is also looking at me to see how I’m reacting to this. I let it go for about a dozen things, and then I walked down to the end of my lane to organize my things and make some space and said to the children, “Can you please stop doing that? Thanks.”

The mother says, “They were just helping,” to which I didn’t reply. (though I did notice they weren’t helping her) Then she says to the children, “Don’t worry about it – she’s just in a bad mood.”

At this point I had the option to let it go, but that option only flitted briefly across my mind before I dismissed it and said, “Why are you telling them I am in a bad mood just because I don’t want them touching my things?”

The mother looks at me and says, “Aren’t you in a bad mood?”

I am standing back at the scanner at this point, about 12 feet from her, so I raise my voice and reply, “I AM NOW!”

Conversation over.

I still don’t think I was wrong in that situation, but I admit that I might not have been so touchy if I’d been better rested and feeling less pressured.

This weekend I am in Maryland for a tennis tournament for my daughter and I may or may not have pounded on my steering wheel and threatened bodily harm to a driver in front of me for driving so cluelessly…

Win or lose this evening her match this evening, I get to sleep in for a change tomorrow morning…