A Different Approach to Spring Cleaning

The sun peeking through the windows to light the darkened living room.

As I was putting away the Easter decorations, I went a step further and decided to remove all the familiar decor. I wanted the living room and kitchen area to be empty of any miscellaneous items. The open concept area looked clean- visually clean. The customary furniture sat free of any items. With the sun’s illumination, the living area was bright and cheerful on the honey pine walls and brown, wooden furniture. I was impressed by the overall luminosity of the open layout.

Ingredients rest in the corner awaiting to be mixed for double chocolate brownies.

Despite being in seasonal containers, I was unable to rationally declutter the multitude of unwanted (not needed) items. Therefore, the kids and I packed the van, and I drove to my sister’s home to clutter her garage with my overload of anxieties- containers. She and her husband have been gracious to store the boxes until I am ready to finalize a “YES!” or “NO!” on each individual item.

Small touches add to our home’s Spring fever.

Those items became too much for me to decide upon an immediate “yes” or “no” answer. At this moment, I am thinking “NO!” to all of it. But then my brain goes into memory mode and plays all the little scenes of how the children enjoyed certain seasonal pieces. With my sister’s assistance, I should be able to decide what my home needs.

My cup runs over with the delicate simplicity.

As to the current state of my home, I am slowly adding a few- I truly mean FEW- items to the deserted furniture. Even with the small quantity, the three areas continue to appeal to my clean state of mind.

Our newest addition- the sunroom- is in the holding phase at this moment.

My home is my haven. My home is loved. My home has welcomed four children and numerous guests. My home has been blessed with upgrades over the last 25 years.

***Lighting comes from the sun’s provision except in the trinket closet that houses our memorabilia. Goal was to accentuate the natural appearance in the home.***

May you find enjoyment in this year’s Spring cleaning as I have in mine.

A Peek Into My Vintage Dish Collections

I have always been fond of vintage dishes since my childhood. I grew up with one grandmother using Blue Willow and another having the Corelle Butterfly Gold as their everyday ware. Over time, I have slowly accumulated pieces of different sorts at varying prices. Most have been purchased from eBay and the local thrift stores. The expense adds up over time with eBay.

Several of the Blue Willow sets were gifts from my husband when Ingles offered specials twenty-something years ago. The gifts were/are special treats since the dishes were a splurge (my wants) for him. To understand my utter excitement, I remember calling my grandmother when I finally received the smaller fruit bowls. We would talk forever about these dishes, which always led the conversations to how hard it was to set up housekeeping during her early years of marriage. Saddly, I was unsuccessful in getting all of the pieces before Ingles stopped carrying the special dishware.

I was introduced to the Memory Lane ware by my husband. He happened to unfold a bread plate while sorting through various treasures. Since then, I have been on the hunt for any pieces that can be added. Unfortunately, any collected piece has been purchased from eBay sellers. Memory Lane is not easily accessible to find in my area. I see a set as telling a story. Each piece has an illustration of a homeplace and families working together. I would love to learn the history behind Memory Lane’s designs.

I love the engravings and the acorn and oak tree trim.

The Blue Willow and Memory Lane dishes are a daily staple at mealtimes. The Blue Willow was pulled from the hutch when I saw that our original dishes had decreased in number. Beforehand, the Blue Willow were removed from their decorative place on special occasions.

Currier & Ives pieces hang on my wall at the end of the kitchen cabinets. I recall seeing similar pieces in familiar kitchens. This, too, is a slow journey in gathering pieces. I find a dish here and there but not many collections.

These, too, depict beautiful scenes.

I know I am wiser now since I have grown older and wish to invest money on dishes of my past than on the latest fashions. I guess this is what separates me from the younger generation when I have a fondness of my youth.

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It’s a daily thing—

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a cleaning schedule: Mondays- master bathroom, Tuesdays- master bedroom, Wednesdays- laundry room and sunroom, Thursdays- kitchen, Fridays- living room, Saturdays- catch up day and Sundays- rest. Indeed, I am a creature of habit and do not adjust well shifting from my cleaning routine.

I am not sold on the brand name cleaning products and tools that are only applicable for specific household items such as stainless steel, granite, wood, ceramic. Give me something that will encounter all the molds, mildews, dust mites, stench, etc. in one or two bottles. I do not have the patience nor the room to store single-use items.

Cleaning Materials

In other words, I have my go-to products that can be used alone or mixed: DAWN, white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, olive oil and water. A multi-purpose cleaner can be made with warm water, DAWN, and white vinegar. White vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and water do wonders for glass. Adding lemon juice and olive oil to white vinegar and water create a phenomenal wood cleaner. I use DAWN and white vinegar on my hardwoods. Baking soda can be sprinkled on carpet, in ovens, sinks, tubs and toilets with a squirt of DAWN and vinegar mixture.

Occasionally, I will utilize the help of good ol’ bleach. There are times when bleach is necessary. Bleach was always a staple growing up. It was observable in all homes.

However, I usually stick with wiping everything with a good hot soapy dishcloth. If DAWN is good enough to wash dishes, then it is good enough to use as an all-purpose cleaner. I wipe all the kitchen appliances and countertops with my dish soap.

My smaller cleaning supplies include bristle brushes, pumice rock, tooth brush, OXO brush, sponge eraser and old wash or dishcloths. I do not discard used toothbrushes and cloths. They are washed with hot soapy water and are appropriate for cleaning. I never understood why people threw these items away when they became stained and appear to have the “worn-out” look. Recycling saves pennies.

Smaller Cleaning Supplies

I prefer to use the electric vacuum on the carpet and furniture. The electric vacuum has a better suction in picking up dog hair and other particles. The cordless is perfect for tile and hardwoods. I use the lightweight cordless while the rest of the family use the heavier cordless. But honestly, I enjoy sweeping, a satisfying tool. We do have robo vacs, but I have not joined the robo fan club. I’m not impressed with them; however, the family loves them!

Dollar Tree accessories and O Cedar Mop and Bucket

Oh my! I have fallen for these Dollar Tree Essential accessories for cleaning the house. Each has to be purchased separately though: light and heavy duty broom brushes, microfiber duster/mop pad, microfiber mop pads light and heavy duty and of course the handle. Seven dollars well spent if you purchase all the items. My husband surprised me with another handle and extra cleaning pads. Thank you Joe. I can clean using a different accessory without having to change out in the middle of a job—–one less interruption while cleaning

These Essentials cleaning accessories assist in cleaning the tubs, floors, walls, ceilings- you name it! I wash and wring out the pads in the sink, allowing me to rinse, wash and refresh the pad during a specific cleaning job. The pads are also machine washable, so it is easy to throw the pads in the washer afterwards and begin with a fresh clean pad in the morning.

I use the O Cedar mop and bucket for cleaning more than one small room. It comes in handy when I am tackling all the floors.

Main overall emphasis is being a firm believer in all the items listed above. Simple and inexpensive for doing daily, monthly, and/or seasonal cleanings. They are proven worthy and long lasting since many of the items have been around for years; especially with my grandmothers benefiting from them in their homes.

I suppose I am old fashion and have “set ways” in cleaning my home. It worked with my grandmothers and mother, so my cleaning routine should work for my home and family.

Accepting GRACE and Assistance When Offered

It is difficult to accept help when you have been able to do the job on your own. I struggle with simple tasks now and sometimes succumb to what my inner voice says, “You’re a failure!”.

There are days that I am unable to pull the skin from a chicken leg, lift a pan off the stovetop or out of the oven, turn fabric inside out or open the vacuum canister to empty the collected trash. I cannot hold a crochet or sewing needle properly. Some days it takes longer to get to the kitchen to fix the morning coffee or hold the cup.

Every morning my husband and children remind me to take it easy before they leave out for the day. Work 15-20 minutes then take a short break has become my daily routine. I have a set weekly routine to cleaning the house. This is the only way I can accomplish the needed cleaning. Each day is assigned to a specific room: Mondays- master bathroom, Tuesdays- master bedroom, Wednesdays- laundry and sunrooms, Thursdays- kitchen, and Fridays- living room. The family helps and are responsible for their rooms and bathrooms. And- they gladly help when asked.

But- being a homemaker is MY job and I love it! I enjoy having the house clean and tidy and supper on the table waiting for the crew to enjoy. I get satisfaction from seeing their faces every evening. They, too, face their own struggles working and attending schools, and I want to be their rock when they walk through the door.

But- the family is having to be my rock- my support. And- I thank GOD daily for giving me this family who understand that Mom and spouse cannot always have a room clean or tidy and supper on the table when they come home from a difficult day.

And- sometimes I have to accept grace and assistance when I cannot be fruitful.

Learning the Value of Hard Work

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

I learned the value of hard work at a young age from living on a farm. We were up by 6:00 am to head out to the chicken house or work with the animals. The summer months were focused on training the livestock for the upcoming local fair in September. The training was done twice to three times a day during the cooler hours. In those days, the chicken houses were not automatic and required feeding and watering by hand. Once finished, we walked the house picking up dead chickens.

Not only did we tend to the animals, but we also worked in the gardens- not a small plot but ACRES. The early mornings allowed us to complete the outdoor chores before the days’ temperature turned too unbearable. We worked inside during the roasting hours on house chores and putting away the gathered vegetables. Sometimes the work lasted after midnight finishing the canning. Note— we did not have central heating and air- a single window unit and floor fans.

I remember the assigned chore list. I had to clean the kitchen and wash dishes on Mondays and Fridays. The living room and laundry were on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I may have the days wrong now that I think about it. Does not matter- we were expected to have the chores completed by the time our parents came home from work. We will not discuss what would occur if we wasted our time playing.

Lessons learned: much can be accomplished in the early hours, do it right the first time then the task does not have to be repeated (Rewashing ALL the dishes for one!) or receive a good scolding for wasting food!

I have carried the same mindset in my home. My children were assigned chores on specific days. Even though I am their mother, I have to admit they did an awesome job completing their chores. Needless to say, there were days that could have been better.

I observe my grown children being mindful of how meticulous they are with their own homes or living areas. I am very proud of their work ethics.

Learning the value of hard work came from observing, coaching and modeling from the adults and others who were present in my upbringing. I truly believe in the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. A child mimics what is seen and heard.

I will end this with my , it is OUR responsibility to be the coach and set the example of appropriate expectations that a child follows to learn the needed positive work ethics.

Photo by Dale Jackson on Pexels.com

Adding Touches of Red to the Winter Decorations

It is easy to “buy into” the need for purchasing seasonal or holiday decor. I was one of those people who lavished the home- when in reality, this abundancy created visual clutter and madness. I wasted money on explicit items that did not endure the short time frames- furthermore, they collected unwanted dust. Over time, it proved to be difficult in managing the cleaning of all the “extras” that took up needed space. I spent more time and thought in the decorating and storing than the purpose. Now, I am learning to be happy with minimal decorations and less clutter. <LIFE LESSON>

Some Christmas decorations remain for the winter season and have been moved multiple times to their final resting place. Even though the decor is geared more towards winter, I have added DIY’s for the upcoming Valentine’s Day.

I added fairy lights and replaced the greenery with a red rose, eucalyptus, and lily of valley in the white pitcher.

Pines, holly trees and shrubs along with nandenna berries are still observable on our property. I wanted to maintain that same desirable winter feeling in the main living areas. We have not experienced a “good snow” this winter, so the happy snowmen will have to do.

All surface areas are covered to help with keeping scratches to a minimum.
This is one of Stitch’s many claims.

In the above picture, faux greenery is adorned with heart ornaments and nestled in a gifted DIY Valentine’s pot made by one of the children. The items complement each other to construct this heart tree centerpiece. Hidden behind the large coffee cup is a tile coaster displaying a child’s drawing of a heart and note, “Love is for all animals, plants, and humans.” Wow! Written with a child’s innocence. And- don’t mind Stitch. He’s perched on one of his favorite spots.

Adding DIY hearts to the winter decorations was inexpensive and easy to make. I used the same fabric to make pillow covers as seen in several pictures. A little side note- the ticking material make great hand towels.

These pillow covers allow changing with each season effortless; four pillows serving year round.

I placed the DIY pillow covers together to demonstrate how easy it is to add simple seasonal touches to spaces.

In addition, cardinal decor is visible throughout my home: tea towels, trivet, ornaments, shower curtains, as well as settling on mini trees, etc.

Berry picks enhance any floral arrangement yet beautiful in a simple pot.

Inviting red pillows and blankets are folded and ready for those who wish to snuggle. These invitationals have greeted people since Thanksgiving.

The red accents emphasize the wood interior and award me the opportunity to savor the seasonal greenery a little longer. However, I do plan on putting away the decorations after Valentine’s in order to begin my SPRING cleaning.

I love my home and all that it holds. The Pile of Sticks Home has been good to us and those who have entered through the doors. Reference previous blogs to find more pictures of home decor.

I would love to know how you are decorating for Valentine’s and the rest of the winter season.

Understanding MCAS and How I Am Coping

I have three friends that go with me everywhere. They help me function on a daily basis and even assist with cleaning the house. Actually, I consider them to be keepers as my forever friends. I am talking about my N95 masks and the AERA MAX air filters.

I began wearing the N95 masks in the FALL of 2019 due to my extreme asthma and allergies. I was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome in the Spring of that same year. My husband purchased both after learning about the diagnosis. Now we have four air filters stationed throughout the home. Before I retired, I would bring a filter with me to school every day.

Consequently, a filter is buckled in the car when I go somewhere, which is now a rare occurrence. I have come to the conclusion that I would rather stay home than to load all the necessary items in order to travel to town- less than five miles. You will understand later why I have chosen to stay home and relish in the home environment.

Joe and I began researching “what is” Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and “how” we can cope with the diagnosis to help with the day=to=day episodes. Not only do I have a mask and air filter with me at all times, I also have bags in close proximity in case I “vomit.”

I consider these three necessities life-savors. I will spare you the details of the syndrome but just know that it interfered enough that I retired from education with disability.

Whenever I dust, wash dishes, sweep/vacuum the floors, clean the bathroom, sew, change the bed linens, or work with laundry, I wear a N95 mask. You get the picture. I am unable to open the door without a mask. Why? Anything, can cause a chain reaction. My lifestyle has drastically changed within the last three years.

I am now gluten, nut and diary free and eat little sweets. Perfumes, stress and heat can cause an episode. Essential oils and scented candles are a big NO! I researched and follow a low-histamine diet. It is a limited diet, and some foods have been added back that have proven not to irritate my gut.

MCAS is not well-known and can be misunderstood by the medical personnel. My husband and I have developed a protocol for when I begin feeling a tingle. It may take an hour or so, but I have to allow myself to cough it out.

I have seen improvement since the initial diagnosis. One of the main struggles is my voice. Talking or wearing a mask for long periods of time can be difficult. I suffer from bouts of fatigue. It can take a day or two to recover from an episode. I have learned to work for 30 minutes and then take a break. This helps with staying hydrated and “catching my breath.”

Being home and away from the public has benefited me in several ways. This website stemmed from retiring. It’s an outlet and allows me to create short snippets of my life as a homemaker. I am able to work on sewing at my own pace. I cook and bake more. I have a cleaning schedule that focuses on one room a day.

I am living at a slower pace in this season of life.

The Guest Bathroom

This was the home’s main bathroom before we remodeled in 2003. Joe added wood paneling and tile to help cover the stubborn orange wallpaper and uneven sheet rock. He began the project in 1998 and is currently working on it in 2021. This year’s project is to install new light fixtures and plywood around the sink.

Standing at the door admiring the simple winter coziness.
Closer view of the sink in the guest bathroom. It gives a better understanding of the walls and door latch.

The bathroom had an ocean theme when the children were little. They painted their favorite animals and hand-printed “grass”. In order to keep the precious hand-prints, we are going to nail plywood over the decorative walls. The plan is to paint the plywood a cream color since the area does not have natural lighting. This should add brightness to the room.

Guests are initially bumfuzzled when trying to open the closed door.

All the doors were hand built by the original owners.

The doors have a very unique structure. The original owners pieced the doors together creating the “Z” design.

The door’s latch catches everyone by surprise when they first observe the different handle. It is similar to the older styles. I wanted you to have a precise look at the inside latch to notice that one must lift the anchor up and out in order for the latch to raise above its holder (shown in the previous sink picture). We do not have any reason to replace the door or its handle.

The bathroom’s hardware was updated this past year. The bronze accents the rustic style.

The shower head adds to the inviting warmth.

The bathroom will remain with the winter theme until we decorate for spring. An additional note, the decorations for this room are always the same: shower curtain, hand towels, toilet cover, and a light-up snowman. The simple decorations create an overall pleasant space.

I love this picture.

Needless to say, this room is always the warmest or coolest depending on the season. It is the center of the home—enclosed on all four walls.

Antique Dresser + Sewing Table= Coffee Bar and More

I love snowmen with red, green and white accents.

Two well-used pieces placed together creating one loved “HOT” bar!

We inherited both pieces of furniture. The dresser was missing its round mirror, so my sister added a stained dowel rod in the mirror’s place. It created a beautiful piece with touches of ornate tea towels. The sewing machine table belonged to my mother and served its purpose as my sewing table.

The coffee cups are from our first set of dishes. Only four saucers have survived the 27 years. The silver bowl is filled with Swiss Miss packets, peppermints, and reusable K- cups. Swiss Miss packets were emptied into the clear canister to allow measuring the right amount of cocoa for the desirable taste of hot chocolate or the perfect mocha latte. Marshmallows are hidden in the snowman teapot waiting to be plucked with tongs stored in the Christmas creamer. And of course, a coffee bar cannot be complete without sugar- located in its proper place while spoons rest in the matching creamer. Broken peppermint sticks add color to the mason jar. I placed snowmen and a green tree around the condiments to accent the winter theme.

Additional goodies are located inside the drawers. A variety of coffee, tea, and cocoa are in the two divided drawers. Overflowing coffee bags and marshmallows are also stored in the two lower drawers. Drinkware is housed in the middle and bottom drawers. Not all drinkware is suitable to the drawer’s heighth, so they are turned on their sides.

The sewing table provides ample room for the Keurig to create the savoring hot liquid.

I attempted a creme brulee latte recipe from Kailyn Cash’s YouTube channel to help warm my wintry bones. The recipe calls for simple ingredients: 1/2 cup choice of milk, 1 teaspoon caramel syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and a shot of coffee. Warm the first four ingredients- not overly bubbly- then froth before adding to the shot. I personally used oat milk and omitted the caramel due to not having. The latte was satisfying both in taste and warmth.

Do you have a specific area for your coffee or do you keep it on your countertops? We also have other methods for making coffee. There is nothing like a good steamed cup from a percolator or dripping in a chorreador. I believe we are spoiled by the instant gratification of the Keurig.

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