persimmonfrost: (caddy)


Gustave Doré's illustration to Dante's Inferno...

Gustave Doré’s illustration to Dante’s Inferno. Plate XXII: Canto VII: The hoarders and wasters. Oh yes, there’s a place in hell for the likes of me.

I spent all last week cleaning my bedroom.  A week, you ask in horror, imagining a scene from “Hoarders?”  Well yeah, and there’s a reason why.  Several, really, that I’ve been thinking a lot about as I schlepped and dusted and mopped and sorted.

I’m coming up on the five year anniversary of moving here.  Before that I’d spent about fifteen years caring for my parents in a home that became increasingly cluttered due to… well a lot of things.  They were in the antique and resale business for more than 50 years, and kept quite a lot of wonderful stuff for themselves (and me.)  When Dad retired, a lot more stuff came upstairs, got stored in the basement or out in the garage. (I don’t even like to think about the fact that I walked away from a full garage and a half-filled basement when I moved.)  And as their health deteriorated, we added a lot of home health clutter to the mix.

Housework became an exercise in simply keeping up with the increasing mess, keeping critical things like kitchen, bath and bedrooms clean and relatively neat.  Dementia, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression and a host of other, more minor ailments are not tidy afflictions.  You don’t cough delicately into a lace hanky and swoon on a velvet couch.  There are pills, and ointments, syringes, bandages, adult diapers, walkers, hospital beds, oxygen concentrators, canes, gait belts, commodes, and more dirty towels and garbage than you can begin to imagine. There are the useful gadgets to help with routine tasks and the not-so-useful gadgets that waste time, money and emotional energy.  There are piles of magazines and newspapers, piles of laundry and mail, stacks of games and toys intended to, if not improve cognitive function then at least slow the loss. We even had some sort of machine that was supposed to help Mom’s hip knit. (The bone never solidified.  Or something. What I recall of those days is imperfect.)  In short it’s a long, messy business and once it’s over there is a fantastic amount of stuff left, in this case on top of an already fantastic amount of stuff.

All of which is to say nothing of my own clutter, all the stuff I had, all the stuff I bought to make myself feel better.  (Bad habit.  Working on breaking it.)  When my folks passed I was left with a over 4,000 sq. ft. of stuff piled on stuff.

I promptly got about as sick as I’d ever been in my life, and while I was in a decongestant-induced haze I had a dealer come in and take what amounted to about 1/3rd of the stuff to sell. The money stopped coming a year or so ago, so I assume it all sold or has been given to charity. I sold a bunch of stuff on eBay.  And when I moved I still had about 4000 sq. ft. of stuff to move into about 2200 sq. ft. of space.  So for five years I’ve had boxes of stuff

Caddy looking down at his momstacked almost everywhere in this apartment.  Why? Well chalk some of it up to being lazy.  And depressed.  My family was gone and about eighteen months after I moved, my beloved Caddy died, too.

But I also think that some of this reluctance to get on with living here was because I simply didn’t know how or even if I wanted to.  It was an enormous change that I never really wanted to make.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did, all things considered.  But the whole process was something I never felt ready to cope with.

Our Alter Egos

Little by little I’ve been easing into this new place. We have a garden, and every time we plant a rose bush it’s really an act of faith.  The basement is finished.  We’ve gotten to know our neighbors. (Many of whom we both love to pieces.)  I’ve got a couple of rooms painted.  And last week I got everything in my bedroom squared away.  (Okay, to be fair, I still have one tote to empty, but it’s the odds and ends of cleaning. And the room needs painting.)  I’m building a sense of belonging that I desperately need if I ever want to feel at home here.

I love this place.  I don’t ever want to leave.  I think if I ever needed to leave it would kill me.  I suppose that would solve the problem, wouldn’t it?  I just need to let myself feel like it’s home.

This is what helps:


Glinda and the bathtub full of coffee

Glinda and the bathtub full of coffee (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

Christmas 2012





Mirrored from Persimmon Frost.

persimmonfrost: (Default)

It's February now, and I've moved to phase two of the Pantry Project which is about not buying  anything that won't be used within a week or two.  I'm not always successful at that, but I'm getting better at saying, "No, I don't need those things.  I have plenty of other stuff to use up first." which really is the point.

I managed (finally) to get my kitchen rearranged, no small feat, let me tell you since while it looks as if I have ample cabinet space, the truth is that one is virtually inaccessible without a step ladder and grabby stick and two more have lost a substantial amount of space to the duct from the range hood/microwave.  Why they didn't run it straight up through the top of the cabinets and then out is beyond me, but then this house is a study in bizarre choices and awkward construction.  The housemate and I refer to it as "a benevolent Hill House." Yet another cabinet is ginormous, but most of the space is inaccessible because the door is located at the far end.  (I use it for baking sheets and rarely used small appliances.)

The Pantry Project

In any event, I did want to share an end-of-project photo to prove that I actually did finish.  To the left is my pantry.  It's all open and I'd prefer if it had doors, but I can't afford that right now.  Maybe one day I'll learn how to make doors, or be able to afford to have them made (It'd probably be a custom job since the niche was constructed for me when we re-did the back exit.)  I love having all the packaged food here because that's my kitchen desk to the right, and while I sit there, I can look at the shelves and think about what I might fix for any given meal.

Everything that doesn't go in the fridge or the seasoning cabinet is here.  As you see, there's a LOT of stuff, though two of the six shelves hold mostly baking items which I consider to be (in general) a bit different from cans of soup and boxes of pasta.  Kitty food also takes up a big chunk of space.

Since I've started baking two or three loaves of bread a week, I'm going through flour and yeast at a good clip, also dry milk, honey and millet.  I'm also using up the mixes I've had in my cabinets for way too long.  So far I've made Bob's Red Mill rye bread (a clear winner; soft crumb, slightly sweet, good sandwich bread) King Arthur Flour sweet almond bread (dry and surprisingly not as tasty as I'd have hoped) and one other KAF bread mix which I can't recall, in part because it ended up being a complete failure.  I also made gingerbread and chocolate cake, and I'm finally down to two mixes: One more chocolate cake and a KAF brioche mix.

I made a curry the other night from a mix I got through the Amazon Vine program (Briefly, if you're a member, they send you free stuff, you evaluate it and write a review.)  It wasn't great, it wasn't bad, but I used it to get rid of one package of ground beef that had been sitting around here for way too long.   If you're sharp-eyed, you'll see that I have about five or six more boxes of Indian food mixes sitting on the shelf.

Tonight's supper will be saffron risotto and chard with ginger.  If I can arse myself to fix some lentils to go with them that'll be great, otherwise I'll just let it go.  What I really want is an Italian beef sandwich from Marco's.


persimmonfrost: (Default)

Macaroni and cheese in a white bowl.

The process is starting to get interesting because I'm almost out of the things I eat rather habitually (V8, Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup, packaged mac and cheese, tuna) and am now having to force myself to take a good look at what's in the cabinets and ask myself, "What can I do with this that will be tasty and  economical?"  In other words, what can I fix that I will actually eat?

Over the weekend, I used up two pounds of oxtails I'd had in the freezer downstairs.  I'd never cooked them before, but I had  a recipe from one of the cookbooks I got at Christmas, so I ordered the fresh ingredients that I needed -- leeks, carrots; I had the garlic from what we grew over the summer -- and asked Glinda to bring home a bottle of red wine for the wine reduction that was the basis of the braise.

The result was very nice.  Oxtails are very fatty, and even after trimming them I ended up scooping quite a bit of fat out of the pot that had been refrigerated overnight.  Even then, the sauce was over-rich, in my opinion, and a little went a very long way for both Glinda and myself.  Jim liked them, so he got all the leftovers to take home.  I also made a loaf of semolina-cheese bread from a mix I'd bought a while ago from King Arthur Flour.  The bread was also a little over-the-top in terms of flavor and while I enjoyed the meal, it wasn't one I'll ever duplicate.  However I did manage to use up frozen meat and a baking mix, so it was a good end to week two of eating from the pantry.

Week three begins with my decision to use all the powdered milk I have stored in the freezer before I buy any more.  I saved an Oberweis glass bottle and mixed up half a gallon of milk this morning. I had to use the blender because dry milk tends to be lumpy, which is just a nasty surprise when you're drinking it.  This is going to take me a while, but it'll save me quite a bit of money which is all to the good.  While I pay off my Christmas debts, I really want to cut my grocery budget to the bone.  Tonight I'll be making a pan of gingerbread and mac and cheese.  Yes, Glinda will be buying a package of that today on the way home from work.  There is a reason; we'll be watching the last ep of season 2 Sherlock, and we both felt the need for comfort food.  Still, packaged mac and cheese is cheap; it's not going to dent the budget too dramatically.

US Meat Consumption

Today is also Meatless Monday.  For those of you who don't know, there's a movement to eliminate meat from American diets for one day a week.  I know some of you are probably recoiling in horror right now, and okay fine, nobody is going to force you to give up you moo or oink at every meal habit.  But though I like meat -- yes, I genuinely enjoy much of it -- I'm concerned about various aspects of meat-eating and would like to cut my consumption.  It's nice to have one day where you know you're just not going to indulge.  The Pantry Project is fantastic for Meatless Mondays because so much of what's stored is vegetarian or vegan.  I even unearthed a can of vegetarian baked beans this morning.  I'd forgotten I had them, and was ridiculously excited to see them sitting there.

Yet another advantage that I'm discovering as I pursue this resolution (One which I may extend to two months, with a bit of alteration.) is that I'm learning what works and what doesn't.  I'm paying more attention to what I like, what's easy to make, what's more economical.  I'm eating smaller portions because I'm more aware of what each one is costing me.  You don't notice stuff like that as much when you've got a pantry filled with food.  Say what you will about stockpiling food when it goes on sale, the effect can be just the opposite of what you intend.  It can encourage us to waste food because there's so much left, and it can encourage us to eat larger portions for the same reason.  YMMV.  I'm starting to know where my head is at, and what I need to do about it.

My goal is to at least open and use everything that's sitting in my fridge, cupboards or freezer.  I don't have to like it; I should make an honest effort to finish it, but if I don't I'll know I don't need to buy it again.  I'll know what I should have on hand and what I shouldn't bother with.  I'll be able to plan my cooking more efficiently, and cut down on waste.  Who doesn't want to do that?

And then, once I've got those cabinets cleared out, there's going to be what my mother called a "Grand clearing up spell." They're going to get cleaned, things too old to eat will be tossed, and the storage will be rearranged. so it makes more sense.

The thing I'm happiest about?  I'm proving to myself that I'm not too old to change the way I live.  Go me!

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Tracy Rowan

August 2013

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