New Year’s Day and Two-Year Day

Clump #230: Basement paper piles shredded and recycled; Coventry Carol sheet music refiled.


Hello wonderful readers.  Not only is today the first day of 2015, it’s also the second anniversary of Clump A Day!  Amazing.  I am living and typing proof that anyone can fulfill any New Year’s resolution, even one as outlandish as this: a disorganized technophobe publishing on the web and clearing a clump of clutter every day.  Yes, I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon more than a few times, but have gotten back on and kept rolling.

I very much hope you enjoyed wonderful holidays.  I have been savoring the closeness of family the most.  Our older daughter was here and gave us the clearing of clumps as a Christmas gift.  My husband put her to work in the basement with some very old piles of paper.  The one below was spared shredding.  It was obviously a school project for our younger daughter, a menu, possibly created to use spelling words? “A guarentied smile when you leave” was her restaurant’s slogan, which could mean its customers were happy to leave :-).


Inside, menu items included “roast beef – the savory and tender meat matched with the stupendous flavorful juices will brighten any horrendous day.”  And, “green beans – these crispy fresh green beans with a lively bright color will give you a reasonable amount of the important folic acid that you need.”  Sold!

Ah, some things are just too good to throw away.  But many, many more were not.  I placed newspapers and flyers strategically over the bags in the foreground, below, to stabilize the shredded paper within.


Sometimes I feel my progress is not as dramatic as I would wish.  After two years of de-clumping, I still struggle with the holidays.  But I experienced one very clear victory: every year my husband and kids sing a quartet at our Quaker Meeting’s Christmas Program.  Like clockwork, late on the day of the program, someone utters the question: “Do you know where we put the music for the Coventry Carol?”


And just when they should be running through the song so we can get in the car and go, a hunt for the sheet music ensues.  This year, for the first time, I said, “I know exactly where it is.”  I had made the culling of sheet music a clump sometime last year.  “It’s in the pink folder with the whole notes on top.”  And, lo and behold, there it was.


And furthermore, there is where it was returned.


Without the early Christmas to-do list work that this blog inspired, I would have really been in trouble.  I had received some bad news about my mom’s health (she seems to be doing better) and about two dear friends during the lead-up to Christmas.  I was driving to Lancaster County much more often, and even at night.  The Santa I had photographed last year (at top) looked so different in the dark, as if he had come alive and was ready to go.  Me too!


Wishing you the very best of health and happiness in the New Year, and may your resolutions bring you comfort and joy.

Challenge Conquered in Cape May

Clump #279: Purchase and send gifts on husband’s list; day seven of seven-day holiday challenge … Woo-Hoo!


Well friends, this is me crossing the finish line of a week that really tested my resolve.  I am here to say that, having stuck out the clumping and blogging of this past week, if I could do it, anyone could.  It’s been a very tough week, so while the daily grind of: what clump to do and how to write it up has often been difficult, the flip side has been my gratitude for the structure of the enterprise, which kept me on track, also gratitude for your support and encouragement.  Thank you.

Today I conquered a clump that usually gets put off to the point of painfulness.  I purchased gifts for several great people who work with my husband.  I turned it into a very pleasant activity by buying the gifts while on a day trip to Cape May, NJ with my younger sister.  We had never seen the town in the holiday season before.  The photo above was taken at The Virginia Hotel, an elegant establishment and one of the lovely examples of Victorian architecture the town is known for.  My sister and I noticed that many window boxes around town were adorned with large, shiny ball ornaments.  The ones at the bath shop below looked like soap bubbles.


This shop window contained smaller ones, with a notice of a sale …


make that a monster sale.


Like this monster week … tamed and subdued.

May I Have Fun Too?

Clump #278: Power through bunch of online orders; day six of seven-day holiday kick-in-the-pants challenge.


Here’s a secret: I really don’t like spending a bunch of money all at once, which is part of what most of us have to do at this time of year. Thank goodness for this blog and challenge.  I forced myself to sit down and order some gifts I had been putting off.  In two cases the items were on back-order. Drat!  I have known I wanted them for quite a while.  Why did I wait until peak shopping time?

Don’t be like me!

And speaking of that, I’m still simmering about this advice from Martina McBride in last week’s People magazine.  You’ll notice at the bottom of the page: “Tip No. 1: Plan ahead so you can have fun too!”


So many obnoxious comments flooded my head: “Really?”… “Thank you Captain Obvious”… “Ya Think?” … Sorry to sound snarky, and I’m sure Ms. McBride is a wonderful person and country singer and holiday hostess, but … she might as well have written: “Rewire your brain!”  It’s not so easy for some of us.  And the idea that everyone else is having fun while you are stressing and slaving away sounds sad, but often so true. Thanks for listening.


P.S.  An astute reader of this blog correctly identified the elegant white flower in the previous post as a gardenia (not jasmine). Thank you!  I’m still thinking of (and posting photos from) Longwood, and won’t even guess at the name of the pretty puff flower pictured above.

Reality Check and Dumb Presents

Clump #277: Fifteen minutes of list-checking and strategizing; day five of seven-day holiday pre-crunch challenge.


Today I performed the de-clumper’s equivalent of a douse of cold water to the face: set the timer for fifteen minutes to analyze “the list.”   Confronting my holiday to-do list is now feeling like looking straight at the sun.  Ouch!  Avoid at all costs.  But I did it and feel much, much better.  I don’t mean to scare you, but we’re now in the holiday season … no more smug sense of doing things way early.  It’s time to dive right through.

(As an aside, the photos above and below were taken at Longwood Gardens.  Forgive me, I can’t stop.  Also, If you want to impress a slightly jaded sixteen-year old, tell her/him to smell a jasmine flower, like the one above.  Oooooh!  I wish I had a scratch and sniff app here.)


Speaking of a certain teenager, who I don’t believe reads this blog, I will add a section on “dumb presents I have purchased.” First, a bubble calendar for someone who loves to pop bubble wrap and might have a little problem managing time.  You pop a bubble for every day of the year.  The only question is whether, like eating potato chips, you can stop at one.  I might have to include more bubble wrap to quell that urge. Have you ever seen anything so ridiculous?  Packing bubble wrap in bubble wrap?


Well, maybe more ridiculous might be the gift of soap-on-a-rope I gave to my husband last Christmas, documented in previous posts.  It served its purpose for several hilarious moments.  Now we realize it has an obvious fault line where the rope is, or was.  Who ever thought this was a good idea?  And the soap is not very good.  So … sorry, but goodbye.  The soap-on-the-rope is broke.


In conclusion, aim for useful gifts, but, if not, make sure they’re worth their weight in fun.

Bag O’ Barbies

Clump #276: Deliver Barbies to food pantry holiday giveaway; day four of seven-days of holiday to-do list.


Today I got rid of … gave away … a bag full of Barbies to the local food pantry’s annual gift giveaway for people in need. Interestingly, when I went to the register at Toys R Us, the woman who was ringing up my purchase was obviously interested in why I was buying so many Barbies.  I told her that I was donating them to the food pantry’s giveaway, and she said, “Oh, I use that food pantry.”


She tried to allow me to use as many coupons as the register would, well, register.

I’ve heard that Barbies are losing popularity to Monster High dolls, which sound weird, except for their body proportions, which makes Barbie the more unnatural.

Here are some “Fast Facts About Barbie” from the Barbie website:

  • Barbie® doll’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts
  • She is from (fictional) Willows, Wisconsin where she attended High School
  • Barbie® doll’s official birthday is March 9, 1959 – the exact date she was unveiled to the toy industry during New York Toy Fair
  • Barbie® first appeared in the now-famous black-and-white striped swimsuit
  • Barbie® doll’s debut look was polished off with her signature ponytail – a hair style representative of the times (1959)
  • Barbie® doll’s first pet was a horse named Dancer
  • Barbie® doll’s signature color is Barbie™ Pink (PMS 219)
  • Barbie® doll stands 11.5 inches tall
  • The best-selling Barbie® doll ever was 1992 Totally Hair™ doll, with hair from the top of her head to her toes
  • The Holiday Barbie™ Doll continues to be the number one selling Barbie® doll year after year. In 2013 the annual collectible line celebrated its 25th anniversary
  • Barbie® doll has had 150+ inspirational careers
  • Barbie® recently announced she will be celebrating women in business with her new role as entrepreneur
  • Barbie® first broke through the plastic ceiling as a business executive in 1985
  • Barbie® traveled into space in 1965, four years before man walked on the moon
  • Although she has never won an election, Barbie® has run for president 6 times since  1992
  • Barbie® has been a muse to many artists over the past 5+ decades – including Andy Warhol and Peter Max.


I love the fact that her middle name is Millicent.  She traveled to the moon before man, but still hasn’t succeeded in winning a presidential election.  Even with 150 inspirational careers!

Flying Through My List

Clump #275: Finish Christmas newsletter; day three of seven-day Christmas To-Do list push.


So I’m probably going to be posting more of my photos of Longwood Garden’s holiday display (above and below) even though they seem lacking in capturing the splendor there.

An update on yesterday’s unsticking of myself and my bad attitude:  I finished the holiday newsletter … yay!  It’s emailed off to my husband and three kids for final approval and changes.  A big step done so much earlier than usual.  Hooray for de-clumping!

I even had time to watch Peter Pan Live tonight with Allison Williams as Peter and Christopher Walken as Captain Hook (great casting).  I pretty much loved it.  But I have to say I was having strange, conflicted feelings viewing the females’ roles (responsible, jealous) versus the male’s (clueless, carefree) … but then again the boy who never has to grow up is played by a woman.  I wasn’t prepared for the sadness in the final scene when Wendy is a grown-up mother, Peter is still the same, and he flies off with Wendy’s daughter, Jane.


At least it wasn’t Carrie Underwood (sorry).


Did you see it?  What did you think?

Fifteen Little Minutes: Like Magical Elves

Clump #274: Fifteen minutes of Christmas newsletter writing; day two of seven-day holiday power-prep.


‘Twas the night after declaring a Christmas challenge, and all through the house not a creature was clumping … yeah, I was feeling like a louse. Oh wow.  Tired, headachy, uninspired.  Right after declaring to the cyber-world my great intention of tackling the visions of to-do lists nipping at my head.

So I fell back on the old foolproof, laze-proof method of setting the darned timer for fifteen minutes and starting to move, in this case my fingers over the keyboard in service to the Christmas newsletter that we send out with our cards (traditionally my most procrastinated holiday chore). When the bell rings, stop.  Done.  Starting really is the hardest part.  I now have two solid family news paragraphs and the urge to finish at another time.  Priceless.


And now to settle my brain for a long winter nap.  To all a good night!

(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

Looking Back at NaBloPoMo and the Challenge Ahead

Clump #273: Gift shopping with Giving Tuesday awareness; day one of “finish my holiday to-do list” week.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (?)  How old were you the last time that song lyric felt true?

I completed the 30-day challenge of National Blog Posting Month the day before yesterday.  It was sometimes exhausting, but ultimately rewarding.  The best part about committing to writing (and for me, clumping) every day was the momentum that developed.  It became not a question of whether, but when.  I began to trust that words would come to me when I needed them.

So with the jingle jangle holiday season upon us, I’ve decided to see whether I can call on that momentum to finish my holiday preparations in a week: between now and December 9th, an artificial deadline designed to give myself some breathing room before the usual crunch time.  Is it possible?  We will see!

Today I did a bunch of shopping and made an effort to honor the spirit of Giving Tuesday.  At Barnes and Noble I looked through a box of suggested children’s books one could purchase to donate to needy children.  I really wasn’t impressed with the selection until I spotted The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster.  I was not a stellar reader as a child, but I remember having been transfixed by the creativity in this timeless (ha) tale. Sold!


Making a list of ways I gave today seems a bit like asking for a gold star for my efforts, which is counter to true giving.  So I will close the way I opened, with another photo from my recent trip to Longwood Gardens, featuring the color blue …


and the observation that joyful gift giving can chase the blues away.

Popovers and Pictures

Clump #272: Sort old family photos; day thirty of National Blog Posting Month!  I did it!


Popovers!  I finally made them this morning.  My husband, my older sister, her daughter, and I vacationed in Maine a few years ago and had lunch at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant at Acadia National Park. The restaurant is known for their popovers.  You end up going crazy for them (Why doesn’t every restaurant in the world serve popovers?).

This was before Clump A Day, but even then, when I spotted this popover pan in the gift shop, I knew it would take up valuable space in a kitchen cabinet … a big metal clump.  I was with the niece who was visiting this weekend, and I swore to her that if I bought it, I would make popovers for her when she stayed with us.  So far I’ve kept my word.  An item is not a clump if it is used and loved.

Here she is in front of the pond:


This card came along with the pan … how could I resist:


Ahh, summertime in gorgeous Maine.


On the flip-side of the card is the popover recipe:


I was reminded today of my mom who would always say after a holiday visit, “The house is too quiet!”  So I surrounded myself with photos of family while organizing the big bag of heirloom photos my sister and I had started yesterday.


I could almost hear them again …


and feel the warmth of their presence.

Important Papers and Cute Cats

Clump #271: Fifteen minutes of picture-sorting; day twenty-nine of National Blog Posting Month.


The gentlemen above are some of our 42 Founding Fathers, immortalized in life-size bronze statues at Signer’s Hall at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.  I always get chills walking amongst them.

My niece and her mom are still here, thus the trips to places we usually only make time to visit with company.  Invariably, one of us will utter, “Why don’t we go here more often?”


Our day went from sublime to ridiculous; from high-brow to low; from lofty to silly … or grumpy.  Yes, we whiplashed from touring Independence Hall and the Constitution Center to watching Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, the Lifetime movie starring the internet sensation.  Truly a yin-yang day, but thoroughly enjoyable, nonetheless.


With all the holiday festivities and fun with guests, clumping and posting have been a bit of a stretch.  I was determined to get my older sister (on the right in the photo, in October at a rented cottage) to tackle a job left over from our last get together.  As you can see, we were plied with a few alcoholic beverages; we were also soaking our feet in the bath salts.  I had brought two very heavy bags of family photos that had been cleared out of a desk belonging to my parents.


Unfortunately, the sister on the left was not interested in taking any of the photos.  Also unfortunately, the sister on the right wanted to keep almost all of the photos.  This huge bag remained, and has been an albatross around my neck for too long. Confront!  De-Clump!


I experienced a rare moment of victory over my older sister.  When I reminded her that we needed to do this clump, she recoiled at thought. So I asked her, “Why would you want to keep all these photos if the idea of going through them is so repulsive?” Photos are so difficult to throw away, but there has got to be a limit.  And if they’re deemed keepable, we should find some way to honor them for the future.


The only way we could face the job was by setting the timer for fifteen minutes and really stopping when it went off.  I had to check that I set it right, since it was a very looong fifteen minutes.


Now I have an idea of how to continue organizing the pictures on my own, so we can finish the job when we’re together again at Christmastime.  My Christmas wish!  And look, our own slightly grumpy cat gave her begrudging approval, before trying to bat them around.

Fierce and Flowery Black Friday

Clump #270: Christmas shopping and paper purging; day twenty-eight of National Blog Posting Month.

There was no rest for the weary today.  My niece and I continued our tradition of Black Friday shopping early this morning … after sunrise, that is.


Since the year we trooped out in the middle of the night to track down a large-screen t.v. for my dad, which was pretty scary, we’ve taken it easy both in time of day (7:00 a.m.) and number of stores (one).  The memory still lingers of the huge man vying for large electronics wearing a sweatshirt that said, “There Are Two Types Of People: Gun Owners And Victims.”  I let him go right ahead of me.  “After you.”  Actually, his was a pretty good Black Friday strategy.

My niece was looking like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with.


But it was all for show.  (No foam swords were harmed by us for the photo).


Later, we visited Longwood Gardens.  In the children’s garden maze, she punnily said, “This is a-maze-ing!”


We weren’t the only ones getting into the holiday spirit … or with a penchant for silly hats (see yesterday).


I was so thoroughly tired out that I fell fast asleep in my chair tonight.


My sister said I should be able to count just getting out of the chair as the clump for today, but I moved my clump of aching muscles and another pile of paper.


I was rewarded with a lovely handmade Thanksgiving card sent from my sister-in-law.


We also received our first Christmas card!  I’m going to have to reevaluate whether I can still be friends with them.

Clutter Tips for Turkeys

Clump #269:  De-clump paper pile; day twenty-seven of National Blog Posting Month.

photo (2)

The one thing you kind of forget when committing to the post-every-day challenge in November is a little thing called Thanksgiving.  This Thanksgiving was the year of the Pie-fecta: my husband’s Apple-Pumpkin-Pecan Pie.  The Turducken of the pie world.  I confess I wasn’t expecting to like it, but was won over by the yummy combination of flavors and textures.

And wasn’t it enough of a clump to get the pies made, the feast carried over the river and through the Amish farmland to be with our grandmother/mom?  Well, we had the easy part of the meal, with lots of help.  This is my very obliging niece, lovely enough to make the silly turkey hat look good.


Later I had just enough time and energy to haul out a clump of papers and bust through them.


In today’s issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer I enjoyed a spoof of the typical “holiday tips” lists that I’m attracted to like a moth to a flame.


I loved the advice below on how to “distract guest from the clutter you were too lazy to pick up.”


Is the picture a little out of focus, or is it the fog machine I’ve fired up? Hope your day was festive and fun!

Ode to Joy

Clump #268: Pick up (at last) Christmas cards; day twenty-six of National Blog Posing Month.


The saga of our 2014 Christmas card printing continued with another little glitch.  We left off when the machine at Target was out of order. When I returned, the word JOY on the top of the cards did not look the way it did in the computer mock-up.  My comment, silly as it sounds, was, “The Joy is cut off.”  The gentleman at the counter told me to put the flash drive back in the machine and start over again.  We both looked at the computer screen and the way the card was supposed to look, with a little bit of space around the word.  He started the order over again … and the cards came out, again, with “the Joy cut off.”


I heard a song today by a group called Lucius with the refrain, “She’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope/ Turn it around, turn it around.”  Instead of feeling put-upon for a little imperfection, I changed my perspective.  First, I’m pretty sure I got twice the number of cards I ordered … for free, and second, maybe the Joy isn’t cut off, but overflowing the page.

It was a day for inspiring song lyrics.  In an email from a local bookstore, this Leonard Cohen lyric spoke to my condition:

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving with Joy and Light overflowing.  And if it is not, I hope you might “turn it around, turn it around.”


I am thankful for you and your support of Clump A Day!

Speak Up!

Clump #267:  Send out flag; day twenty-five of National Blog Posting Month.


This is a very big day in clumpville.  My father-in-law was a veteran of World War II.  When he died in 2003, my husband was given the flag covering his casket.  I have been procrastinating about how best to honor it for all this time.  I’ve looked at ready-made triangular cases in stores that looked cheap, and I’ve looked into custom framing that was very expensive.

I finally broached the subject with my husband today.  He suggested framing the flag along with a wooden name plate from his dad’s service that we inherited, as well as a photo of him in uniform.  I emailed one of my husband’s sisters to see if she had such a photo.  Not only did she say she’d look for one, she also said she knew someone who does that kind of framing.  Hallelujah!  I packed the flag and the name plate to send to her right away.


I hadn’t realized how much this had been weighing on me.  Even subconsciously, every time I’d see the bag where the flag had been residing, it would remind me that we were not being responsible conservators. “Bad.”


After procrastinating for so long, the minute I spoke up about it, a great solution had suddenly materialized.  Today’s lesson: Speak up! Get help! De-clump!

Now I’m really looking forward to a great tribute to a great guy.  Well, maybe not as great a tribute as the three swords in the photo below, where my father-in-law’s son and grandson posed in Norway, his ancestral home.  Imagine Grandpa’s spirit standing in front of the third sword.



“Three enormous bronze swords stand monument to the battle of Hafrsfjord in the year 872, when Harald Hårfagre (Fairheaded Harald) united Norway into one kingdom. The monument was designed by Fritz Røed (1928 – 2002) from Bryne, just south of Stavanger. It was unveiled by Norway’s King Olav in 1983.

The swords, which are about 10 meters tall, stand for peace and unification. One sword is larger than the others. This was Fairheaded Harald’s sword. The swords are planted in solid rock – representing peace and are found at Møllebukta which is a bay area on the southern shore of Hafrsfjord.”

Gratitude Attitude

Clump #266: Shop for Christmas presents; day twenty-four of National Blog Posting Month.


It all started with the dreaded (dreaded?!) pink Change Filter indicator on our refrigerator.  I was feeling so put upon, knowing I would have to change out the darned thing, then stand for five minutes letting water run through until it was clear, and, of course, go out and get another filter to have at the ready for the next time.  You could also add a soupcon of “Why am I the only one who notices and has to deal with this?”  Soon I started to laugh with our son about my ridiculous attitude.  Oh my gosh … what a nightmare!

I imagined all the people in the world who endure hardship for water, who would think it a miracle to have clean water at their beck and call for so little effort.  I could see dehydrated children begging me for the bowls of water I was throwing down the drain.  Oh dear, how lucky I am.


In that frame of mind, I headed to the stores to get some Christmas shopping done.  I might have taken a photo like this last year from the store Pier One.  A statue of a seated female Goddess (?) below caught my eye.


Immune to the rampant consumerism surrounding her, she was serene in meditation …


as was her friend who was marked down for quick sale.


I spotted the “Thankful Wall Decor” item below that included the advice: LIVE SIMPLY.  Of course, one way to live simply is not to buy too much junk, like signs telling you how to live.


Actually, if you are being thankful, you might not buy the sign, according to an article in The New York Times called “How to Defeat the Impulse Buy, With Holiday Shopping, Willpower Isn’t Enough,” by David DeSteno. He concluded:

“What these findings show is that certain emotions can temporarily enhance self-control by decreasing desires for immediate gratification. While feeling happy doesn’t do much to increase patience, feeling grateful does.

So if you’re looking to avoid impulse-buying this year, take time not only to celebrate with your friends and family, but also to count your blessings. You may find that the easiest way to thwart retailers’ enticements as you peruse the shopping aisle isn’t to try to resist what you want; it’s to be thankful for what you have.”

Later, I received this lovely card in the mail from a friend I’ve known since third grade.


My cup runneth over!

Not All Clutter Is Clump

Clump #265: Order Christmas cards; day twenty-three of National Blog Posting Month.


The photo above is of our younger daughter who is studying in Russia. She follows this blog, dear girl, and wrote about the post of a few days ago: “Just read your Little Star post, and I have to say I’m really glad you decided to keep (and even mend) the necklace.  A lot of fond memories with that.  I guess not all clutter is clump.”

As promised, I got my head back in the holiday game (is it a game?) and struggled to order our Christmas cards online.  Even with help from the computer gurus in the house, it was, as my husband said, “a clump fail.” Undeterred, I went out to Target.  All seemed to be going swimmingly, until the clerk informed me that their machine was down … come back tomorrow.  So close.  Oh well, at least the order is in.

I recently found last year’s cards, holiday newsletters, and various clippings in a de-clumping pile:


I do want to keep a few cards and letters for posterity. And I can’t throw out good envelopes.  The clippings are another matter.

My parents were very good at throwing things out, but I wish they had saved one thing.  When I was in early grade school, we were supposed write a story to go along with a cartoon picture of  “Bella the Ballerina,” a hippo in a tutu, along the lines of Disney’s Fantasia.  I remember my teacher laughing at my paper until she cried, and then I brought it home, showed it to my parents, and they also laughed until they cried. Obviously I was too young to know what was so funny.  I really wish I could read it again as an adult, but, alas, I can’t.


The article below is one thing I did keep and was able to find for this post!  Proof that a major clutter shift has truly taken place in our house.

Long, long ago, our son and younger daughter were left at home by their older sister who was going to school.  Such sour moods that morning!  I thought I had a great idea to break the funk, and said, “Hey, there’s a new grocery store opening.  Let’s go shopping there and check out the festivities!”  Well, I’m sure the store managers were hoping to get an upbeat photo of the ribbon-cutting, or some other such good PR photo-op.  Instead, the photo that was put on the front page of the Daily Local was of self-conscious me in mom-jeans and my two still-sour-faced kids above the caption, “All Shopped Out.”  No amount of balloons could lift their spirits.


At the time, I remember thinking, ‘Well, here is my fifteen minutes of fame: pushing a shopping cart with cranky kids in it.’  But then I looked up at the story I shared the page with, about John Du Pont (the subject of the movie Foxcatcher, which opened this weekend), and thought, ‘You know what, there are a lot worse fifteen minutes of fame.  I’ll take it.’ Is it a coincidence that the grocery store is now closed?


So not all clutter is clump.  This paper will be kept as a family heirloom. The trick is using discernment in de-clumping.

Now to the rest of my holiday to-do list, and getting myself All shopped out.

Sea-sonal Denial

Clump #264:  Bring in items to be framed and drop off magazines; day twenty-two of National Blog Posting Month.


Oh boy, I have had a terrible time writing this up today.  I did get some clumps dumped, but I have snuck away, mentally, from the things I really should be working on. I’ve been clearing legitimate clumps as a way to avoid the higher priority ones (like Thanksgiving cleaning, or tasks on the Christmas list).

In the spirit of denial, I collected some beach photos from various trips to the sea.  One might call it burying one’s head in the sand … or water.


The fact is, I did bring a beautiful picture in to the frame shop that was a wonderful gift from my sisters in-law; something I’ve been meaning to do since September.  It captures perfectly our beach holiday.  I cropped out (awkwardly) another item that will require further hunting for the best framing technique … a clump for another day.


And here’s proof that I dropped off the lovely tea magazines of yesterday’s post to the good people at the Goodwill.  Good tidings!


But tomorrow I promise to get back to reality; the calendar is imploring me to wake up,


open my eyes,


and put my best foot forward.

Ta-Ta to Tea Magazines

Clump #263:  Give away Victoria and Tea Time magazines; day twenty-one of National Blog Posting Month.


This is a post about finally getting real.  I have collected some very pretty magazines in the two holders below.  They have been taking up space in our bedroom, but today I had to ask myself honestly, “How many times have I looked back through them, looked up a recipe, or even just enjoyed seeing them sitting there?”  The answer is “Zero.”  These two holders and all their contents are now in the Goodwill pile with my fondest blessing (imagine a royal wave in white gloves).


I think I like to fancy myself as a person fancier than myself.  I’m not going to say that I won’t be tempted by these publications ever again, but they do deal in a kind of fantasy world that is not where I usually live. I adore tea and everything that goes along with it.

But sometimes the most satisfying cup looks like this:



A Stitch In Time

Clump #262: Mend Little Star necklace; day twenty of National Blog Posting Month.


This is a very small clump in size.  But, oh, the weight in mom-guilt.  One of our younger daughter’s favorite books growing up was Little Star, by Mary Packard, illustrated by Carolyn Croll.  The book came with a beaded necklace, just like the necklace featured in the story.  It was so loved that it broke … a few times and in a few places.  So our daughter put it in an envelope for me to mend.  How many years ago was this?  I shudder to think.  The picture she drew on the envelope is a clue:


This is one of the many sticky items that I couldn’t dispense with quickly the other day.  Do I send up the white flag and throw it out?  Every cell in my body resisted that option.  Give it to the Goodwill?  Possibly, if I could mend it.  I opened the envelope, imagining a pile of loose beads, and realized I had been working on it, and I had only needed a few more stitches to make it whole.  Why couldn’t I have spared that time when she was little?  Ouch!


I wondered whether we still had the book.  Lo and behold, it was in our daughter’s room with books she had brought to read to her young charges at her childcare job this summer.  From the book:

“One day Grandmother Gray Feather presented the child with a beaded necklace that she had made herself.  In its center was a little star.  ‘Keep this with you always, Little Star,’ she said, ‘and your fondest wish will come true.  Just remember to make your wish wisely,’ added Grandmother.  ‘Do not waste it, for there may come a day when you will need it.'”


Sincere apologies to my little star.  I know just where to put the necklace now.  It’s resting snug in the book,


waiting to make a fond wish come true.


Canning Some Cookbooks

Clump #261:  Clear pile of old cookbooks from bedroom; day nineteen of National Blog Posting Month.


The theme for today is food.  I yanked a pile of old cookbooks out of our bedroom.  Oh dear, the frantic sweeps and nonsensical pile placements I have made.  Here’s what I found, below.  My husband wanted to keep the bread machine cookbook.  Fair enough. Anything to tempt him to make more of his delectable bread should definitely stay.

I didn’t have the strength to toss the Corny Casserole recipe written in my younger daughter’s younger scrawl.  The homemade cookbook from our babysitting coop is also a sweet relic from the past.

The two piles on the left are cooking magazines to toss in the recycling, and two cookbooks for the Goodwill pile.  Out!


All this attention on food made me look back at photos from the Idea Garden at Longwood Gardens from our visit in September.  Up above, some kind of funky, pink-tie-dye bean.  And below, purple tomatoes,


which, while ripening, looked like apples.


Speaking of purple, have you ever seen the flower of the artichoke?  I’m wondering whether it’s in the same general family as the thistle, pictured a few days ago.


The wild, wonderful colors of nature.


Mouth-wateringly gorgeous.  Bon appetit!

Breaking the Ice

Clump #260:  Clean out ice maker; day eighteen of National Blog Posting Month.


Just when I despair of losing color and texture in the world as the leaves fall, brilliant berries come out and bird nests are visible.  Trees whose branches are almost barren make beautiful pictures on old brick and kelly green shutters,


as well as funhouse mirror shapes on grass.


Ahh, I’m trying to accept and embrace winter as a fact now, not just a threat.  And in the spirit of the big freeze, I de-clumped our ice maker today.  We had been noticing a wheezing sound coming from the fridge. At first we thought it was our cat coughing up a hairball (or her latest meal), but she was elsewhere and looking copacetic.  I finally called a refrigerator repair man who was scheduled to come tomorrow.

Then last night my The Voice-watching friend came over for our weekly guilty-pleasure ritual.  She heard the noise and said, “I think it’s your ice maker!”


So this morning I went into the darned thing and, wow, freed the stuck cubes, which stopped the pitiful noise.  I cancelled the repairman and saved us a clump of money.


Just call me Rosie!  Hey, that headscarf would be just the thing for the biting wind.

Clutter Cleans and Castle Dreams

Clump #259: Bring bags to Goodwill; day seventeen of National Blog Posting Month.


I have to confess that yesterday’s clump was a rough one, not only to do, but also to write about in a way that wasn’t a total bummer.  I felt like the pumpkin above.  But prying off such long-neglected clumps has given me a new confidence and toughness. How much worse can it get?  If I can dispense with ancient girl scout relics, I can handle pretty much anything, including a cute toy crane, below, doing its own heavy lifting. This was part of a donation to Goodwill.


Keeping the endless paper flow under control is relatively easy, even with the holiday catalog blizzard, compared to those bedroom clumps.

I had a funny moment today when looking through this week’s The Week magazine.  One of my favorite sections of the magazine is “Best properties on the market.”  Every week a different category of real estate is featured, such as properties with ponds, or properties in the desert, etc.  This week it was “Castles in Europe.”  Ooh la la!  After perusing the castles and dreaming dreams, I turned the page and thought, ‘No, I’m not interested in any of these.’  Ha!  Like Darcy (who actually lived in a European castle) in Pride and Prejudice, “…not handsome enough to tempt me.”  


Just think of all the clutter I could fit in one of those things … there would be no end to it.


De-Clump Where You Live

Clump # 258: Thirty minutes worth of bedroom de-clumping; day sixteen of National Blog Posting Month.


Above, the thistle, thorny bane of most gardeners’ existence.  Pull it up and it roars back tenfold.  Good symbol for today’s job: the clumps I have never been able to eradicate from so many sweeping-ups of other areas in the house.  Somehow they always land in our bedroom, where guests won’t see.  But what does it do to our psyches that the place where my husband and I live and sleep is our dumping ground?

It changes today.  I set the timer for a half an hour.  Believe it or not, the piles below have a certain logic.


Most appallingly old?  Girl Scout paraphernalia from when I was scout leader for my older daughter’s troop.  I always imagined myself donating it all back to the place where I purchased it, but today I stuffed it in a Goodwill donation bag. Phew.  I hope some other mom or girl will appreciate it.


I want to say … “See?  All gone!”  but I still have pesky remnants to contend with for another–long–day.  But at least this area looks better:


These three remotes have been waiting to go to the recycling place at Best Buy for way too long, caught in the stuck energy of all this stuff.  Well, they’re out of here now.


This clipped Cryptoquote solution came fluttering out at one point.


A nod to imperfection that tamed, somewhat, my bubbling self-recrimination and gave me hope for imperfectly cleared space beyond.

Always Ask Yourself: “Is It A Clump?”

Clump #257:  Resist buying clump; day fifteen of National Blog Posting Month.


Once upon a time, on a lovely late summer day, my husband’s two sisters and I were visiting gorgeous Longwood Gardens, a place impossible to sum up with one photo.  Thus, I’ll intersperse a few of my many to illustrate this story.  (I learned that day that the water lilies are actually growing in pots, concealed by black dye in the water!)


By the time one leaves Longwood Gardens, senses filled with all manner of beauty, an irresistible stop on the way out is the garden’s wonderful gift shop.   While I was purchasing soap and hand cream with an elegant fragrance, the clerk started selling me on the merits of a thick flannel picnic blanket sitting conveniently on the counter.  It had a leather-looking strap and a flap with the Longwood Gardens logo stamped on it (‘Nice souvenir,’ I thought). “It’s waterproof,” said the cashier. (‘How practical.’) “And it’s half off today for members with any purchase,” her trump card. (‘Wow, I’m a member and I’m purchasing something right now!’).


Before I could say, “I’ll take it,” I became aware of my sister-in-law Judy (on the left in the photo below) standing next to me. She was mouthing the word “No!”  I leaned closer to her, and she whispered, “It’s a Clump!” Suddenly the spell was broken. You’re right!  I have any number of blankets and towels at home.  I did not need this one clumping up our linen cabinet or crammed into a drawer.


So today when I asked my husband whether he might want a towel warmer for Christmas, an idea I had warmed up to (sorry), his response was, “What does Judy say?”  My weakness for the idea stems from warm towels given to me in the hospital this year, and the indescribable comfort they imparted.  But I know he and Judy are right.  It would be another piece of clutter on our floor and in our lives.  Even though G. from UT can’t live without it … I guess we can.


So this clump is of the Zen koan variety.  If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  If an item of clutter is not bought, does it qualify as a clump?  I say yes.  I did toss out some actual stuff: a lot of catalogs, including this one.  I’ve been telling myself that I don’t go out shopping and think, ‘I have to go into every store here.’ Same with catalogs.  Just because it was sent to me, I do not have to look through it.  I have been known to call the vendor’s customer service number and ask to be taken off their mailing list.

Admittedly, many catalogs have undeniable entertainment value.  Our son and I got a good laugh at the glove phone below.  He said they should advertise it as a great way to embarrass your kids!


But my favorite catalog photo today was the one below, touting the importance of good sleep during the holidays, thus the need for their mattresses:


And on that note, I’ll wish you a good night and go to bed!

How to Avoid Winter Depression and Exhaustion

Clump #256:  Wash and iron winter duvet and put away ironing board; day fourteen of National Blog Posting Month.


Look what happened overnight … I watched the movie White Christmas yesterday, and the Snow, SNow, SNOw, SNOW came down! No, this is not Pine Tree, Vermont, and no, my spirits did not lift at the sight.  In fact, I could have written: “lift mood” as today’s clump.  Bah.

Maybe I’m hitting a wall with the daily posting.  But one thing I did figure out was that connections between ironing and gift wrapping are many. Both are fairly mindless, thus the mindless-type movies I watch while doing them; both take up a lot of space in the house; and both seem endless … there’s always another and another item needing either pressing or wrapping coming up.  Because of this, I tend to keep the ironing board out way too long, and now the wrapping paper containers are becoming squatters in our family room.


Okay, I know a case can very well be made for weeding out these containers.  A clump for another day.  Today I just had to admit that, though getting a head start on Christmas wrapping seems like a good plan, the idea of these containers hanging around me for six weeks (what?–six weeks??) is kind of depressing.  Yes, Christmas wrap is depressing me.


Here’s why.  I read the article below in this week’s People magazine.  I’m a big reader of  tips, so, of course, “Amazing Holiday Tips” are right up my alley.  Molly Sims’s rule number 23 is: “Do all your shopping in one day.  Afterward you’re exhausted, but you’ve done it.”


The enormity of that one tip blew me away.  Granted, Molly must have personal assistants and, so far, one small son (she’s pregnant … I know everything about people with People).  But I began to think that maybe I operate under the assumption that holiday preparations have to be a long, drawn-out, exhausting ordeal.  I’m having a The Grinch Who Stole Christmas moment.  One day?? Onnne Daaay???  I’ve really got to recalibrate my expectations for the holiday and myself.  Wait, I think I’m ready for tip number 8, “Have a signature cocktail.” Yes, please.

True confession: the wrapping paper is still out.  The ironing board is put away.  I washed and pressed our winter duvet cover, and I’m sure you are sitting on the edge of your seat to hear about that!


The dark winter berries (?) are replacing the light seashore motif.  (Sighhhh.)


I think I need to get out into the sunlight a little bit more.


And, if I have such powers, find a movie called “World Peace,” and wake up to a world truly transformed.

Count Your Blessings (and Presents) Instead of Sheep

Clump #255: Start Christmas list and present wrapping; day thirteen of National Blog Posting Month.


It’s that time of year when the holiday season is creeping into the picture before all the autumn leaves have fallen.  Though I’ve purchased a number of gifts, I needed to write them down to see where I am.


One gift I’d gotten that makes me happy is this copy of Anne of Green Gables for a young niece.  I wrote a note to go with it reminding her that when her cousin, our older daughter, was her age, she started reading the book and quickly tossed it aside because the language was too old fashioned.  I don’t know what possessed me, but I told her she couldn’t leave the cabin where we were vacationing until she had read at least two chapters.  (Mean Mother!)  She ended up loving it so much, she read the whole series and kind of turned into Anne.  I had trouble keeping a straight face when we we’d be having a heated discussion and she would assert, “For Pity’s Sake!”


Here it is, ready to delight another generation … I hope!


It’s only mid-November, so to get myself into the holly jolly spirit I turned to the reliable old chestnut, the movie White Christmas.  It’s my “ironing movie” for present wrapping: lots of good songs, and visuals I’ve seen so many times I don’t need to keep my eyes on it.  I started wondered how much of an age difference there was in real life between Bing Crosby and “The General,” Dean Jagger (just learned the actor’s name), who was such a source of pity because he was being put out to pasture.  Turns out they were the same age … fifty-one!  In the scene below, the General keeps calling “Bob” son.  And Rosemary Clooney, Bing’s romantic interest in the story, was only twenty-six!


She, with her deep, mature voice.  Such an elegant dress in the “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” number.


I challenged myself last year to organize my holiday preparations so that I might enjoy the Christmas season.  So far, though it’s still early, I’m doing pretty well.


I took a picture of the sign above — in a shop where Christmas decorations were edging out the fall ones — as a helpful reminder.

No More Wire Hangers!

Clump #254:  Return wire hangers to the dry cleaner; day twelve of National Blog Posting Month.


I was on a lucky streak today.  Not only was the sun shining in lovely Lancaster County, PA (my shadow joining the tree’s), but my mom and I, between us, won three games of BINGO.  I blew through my winnings pretty quickly:


And if that wasn’t enough, big news for loyal Clump A Day followers: I got to meet the Strasburg goose owner … clothier … costumer!  This picture was overexposed, and does not do her justice.  She was just the nicest person in the world.


She and her husband were outside doing yard work when I stopped to snap a photo of the goose in its fox stole.  This is either the third (she said) or fifth (he said) goose they have owned.  The others were stolen (!!), thus the chain around her feet.


She apologized for the hat covering the goose’s eyes, but said it would blow off otherwise.  I was so happy to be able to tell her how much I have enjoyed driving by and seeing what the goose might be wearing each week.


And, oh yes, the clump.  I returned a load of wire hangers to the dry cleaner.  It looks like a modern art installation: hangers descending the back seat.

I feel a little guilty because this was such an easy clump.  But it has obviously needed doing for quite a while.  I have to tell myself that it’s not the size of the clump, but the consistency that matters.  Just Keep On Clumping.  Every. Day.


Meanwhile, my heart went out to flowers I saw today that were refusing to give up, despite frost and impending winter.


A brave gerbera daisy sending out rays of red to the drab world:


And the leaves of that red, red, red Japanese maple:


going out in fiery glory.

Three Essential Decluttering Rules

Clump #253: Twenty minutes of bedroom de-clumping; day eleven of National Blog Posting Month.


Sometimes angels are hiding in plain sight when you least expect them.  I had an experience recently with a kind of an angel.  I received an email which was sent out to a large group.  One part of the the subject heading was “Decluttering.”  Helllo!  In the body of the message was: “Don’t miss out on this opportunity to get some help with decluttering from an expert.”  A woman going for her Decluttering Certificate needed one more participant in her study.

I emailed the decluttering student and ended up speaking to her on the phone.  Great news!  I was rejected!  She was looking for someone who didn’t have the first clue of how to get rid of their clutter.  I’ve made too much progress!

I was bowled over when she mentioned that her teacher is Karen Kingston, author of Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, the best book on decluttering I have read.  Before we ended our phone call, she generously gave me three tips.  You might think, “Oh yeah, I know about that,” but the old truisms are true for a reason.  They work!  Never underestimate the power of these three:

  1. Set a timer for twenty minutes for focused decluttering.
  2. Don’t jump around from place to place.  Start in one section and keep at it until it’s clear.
  3. Use a “transit box” to temporarily store any items needing to go to another part of the house.  Don’t leave the decluttering area to replace those items until the timer goes off.

I really didn’t think I had time for a clump today.  It was a chock-a-block kind of day.  But I did find a little twenty-minute slot, got out our timer, and transitioned this nasty corner of our bedroom from this:


to this:


Can you feel the energy shift?


And hear the angels sing?

Fall Pink and Fall Prevention

Clump #252:  Deliver walker to friend; day ten of National Blog Posting Month.


Today I faced a Clump A Day dilemma.  For those wonderful followers who have been reading here for a long time, you know that I went through a sad de-clumping of a lot of my parents’ stuff when my father passed away.  One thing I had been meaning to give to charity was the walker my father had used.  If the test of what to keep and what to give away is whether the item is useful to you and/or brings a smile to your face, this walker would fail both, spectacularly.  My dad embodied the opposite of everything this walker symbolized.  He was powerful, fit, and independent almost until the end.  The darn thing was a big clunky, sadness-evoking clump of metal.  You know what I’m talking about; you don’t need a picture.  Instead, I’ll brighten the vibe with photos of pink out in the autumnal landscape, a color more associated with Spring, but there you go.


So why in the world was this walker still in our basement?  I had been avoiding it for the reasons above: too painful.  But today I was conferring with a friend about helping out another friend who had been in an accident and needed a walker.  “Uhh, I think I still have the one that belonged to my father.”  And off it went.  No searching around for one, or renting … boom.  Done.


So what is the moral of the story?  It pays to procrastinate?  Save all your clutter for the day someone might need it?  This experience makes a real argument for that approach.  I have to give credit to my older daughter, who, when I posed the question, “What is the counter-argument?” said, “The counter-argument is: do you keep everything in case someone might need it one day?”  Right!  We are not running a store.

I took this (blurry) photo in a big, rambling hardware store this summer. A store that sells everything. Even when the express purpose of your enterprise is to outfit someone else’s needs, organizing all the stuff is a big challenge.


I’m telling myself that I will still have the wonderful moment of giving someone just what they need,


but not because I have held onto it beyond its welcome to me.

Two Ways to Deal with Clutter

Clump #251:  Clear out storage containers from car; day nine of National Blog Posting Month.


I finally got the darned clanging containers out of the back of my car today and returned them to our Quaker Meeting.   It’s about time! We had brought them home from the Fall Festival a few weeks ago so my husband could tally money and tickets. Note the metal cash boxes within.


This evening we got to go to our dear friends’ place for a bonfire.  They have permission to light their burn piles on non-windy days.  How I wish I could do the same with much of the clutter in our house.  Very efficient … poof!

My first sight of the fire was its reflection in the window of a springhouse on their property.


A mesmerizing inferno.  If you look at this photo for a while you see an angel, or fire goddess, with the last burning bright fall leaves in the distance.


Natural fireworks …


from the ground up,


and from the sky down.

Big Clumps and Tiny Bubbles

Clump #250:  Do some Christmas shopping and move three big clumps from our bedroom; day eight of National Blog Posting Month.


Last season I found candles that seemed like the all-purpose perfect gift … and I didn’t have enough. With three sets at the ready, and wrapped (for free) so nicely, I’m way ahead of the game this year.  For those interested, they are Et Al Designs beeswax candles. I’ve discovered they’re also sold at The Grommet, a very cool place to shop online.

So, keeping the pace going in our bedroom: it became the repository for stuff belonging to our younger daughter studying this year in Russia when clearing her floor during the recent carpet-cleaning frenzy.


I have a feeling the bean bag chair will ultimately get the heave-ho, but for now I put it back where it lived when she was much younger.  When we finished the basement, she requested a little hide-out under the stairway, just like Harry Potter’s “cupboard under the stairs”:


My husband was away at the Fall Festival Committee wrap-up meeting and dinner, so I was home alone.  Don’t feel badly for me.  I flipped on the T.V. and found a Lawrence Welk show on PBS from 1973.  What a time capsule!  I’m sorry that this is the second post in a row with photos taken from our television screen.  I promise to get a life tomorrow.

It brought back so many memories: first, being encouraged by our doting great aunts that my three sisters and I were going to be the next Lennon Sisters when we sang for them.  They were very serious, believe you me.   I just read the Wikipedia entry for The Lennon Sisters.  Apparently they still perform but, like us, they are now a trio.  Certainly by the time this 1973 show was aired we were way too cool (in our minds) to watch Lawrence Welk.  Our grandfather loved to turn it on when he was living with us.  It’s a wonder we can see straight with all the eye rolling that went on (behind his back, of course) during those times.


Remember Bobby and Cissy?


This particular show was a tribute to the music of Irving Berlin.  Lawrence, himself, danced a waltz with Cissy to “Always”… which just happened to be the “first dance” at my husband’s and my wedding.


So much big hair and hairspray …


on everyone!


Watching the audience dancing during instrumental numbers was like looking back through a family photo album.


The singing number below was just the kind of thing Saturday Night Live parodied so effectively with Kristen Wiig and the tiny hands singer (look it up).  I guess the women were supposed to be British governesses?  Kind of creepy.


After the recording ended, there was an interview with dancer Cissy of Bobby and Cissy.  Here’s what she looks like now (?)


Seems like she still lives by the Lawrence Welk advice: “Keep a Song in Your Heart.”  Not to mention a rainbow around your neck.  (Feel free to roll your eyes, it’s only fair.)

Ironing and Jane Austen: The Perfect Marriage

Clump # 249:  Conquer ironing pile in bedroom…again; day seven of National Blog Posting Month.


I took the photo above by the roadside on a walk today.  I just googled “large bright green tree seed” and it looks like an osage orange.   I wonder where it came from? Also, I wonder why I can’t keep up with our ironing pile, another wrinkled blob.  (Smooth transition.)  The only way I could face it was by turning to one of my favorite “ironing movies,” Pride and Prejudice.


I sat the pile down in this rocker and got the movie started. The last big clump of ironing I documented here was sped along by another Jane Austen story, the movie Sense and Sensibility, starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Fun fact: in real life, Kiera Knightley dated the actor who played Mr. Wickham, the villain; also in real life Emma Thompson married the actor who played Mr. Willoughby, who was the bad apple of that movie. Hmm.

I know true “Jane-ites” disapprove of this movie version of Pride and Prejudice.  Not wearing bonnets in public? Shocking!  Mr. Darcy and Eliza kissing? Scandalous! But I absolutely adore it.  I know Colin Firth is the ultimate Mr. Darcy, but this is a movie I can watch in one sitting, or standing at the ironing board, as the case may be.  The music is sweeping, the photography is gorgeous …


And those trees!


Where did they find trees this size:


Much like the size of my ironing job.  Just the napkins alone.


This summer we started using cloth napkins for almost every meal.  But they do have to be washed, pressed, and put away.


So many clothes we’ve lost touch with for so long … welcome back!


And if that wasn’t cheering enough, I had a “I didn’t kill it!” moment with a pansy orchid that was generously given to me this past Spring, and about which I was beginning to worry.  I noticed a brand new flower!


And a new, wrinkled leaf that I don’t have to smooth out.

Everyday Clumps

Clump #248: Clear out old laundry clump and mail pile; day six of National Blog Posting Month.


An update to the soap-on-a-rope story from yesterday.  My husband discovered the silly soap this morning, put it over his head, tightly, where it wouldn’t budge any farther, the bar of soap resting on his forehead, and called out to me, “How’s this thing supposed to work?” (Cue the sitcom laugh track.)  Aren’t soap-on-ropes supposed to be worn around one’s neck?  Or maybe the short rope was the reason this one was 75 percent off?  My dear husband, a very patient man, is pictured on a walk above, with me catching up after having stopped for yet another photo.

Today’s clump might seem a bit wimpy.  Both just are everyday household chores that rose to the clump level.  First, a bunch of sheets washed, dried, but which just kept getting shoved aside for need-to-wear/use laundry.  When you (read I) avoid something for too long, roots start forming and avoidance sets in.  That and wrinkles.


Below is the heap of mail — mostly catalogs — that were delivered to our house today.  After vanquishing the big, bad paper pile of last week, I’ve been like a pit bull attacking the daily inflow of mail.  Now that it’s high season for catalogs and solicitations for charities, the extra vigilance is even more important and more laborious.


Here is what I kept: two catalogs I enjoy, and two bills to pay.


I’ll close with another in what could be a series: me walking behind my husband, due to my photo-bugging,


and an example from nature of the benefits of steady, consistent clean sweeps.

The Bureau of Magical Cleaning

Clump #247: Clear off bedroom bureau; day five of National Blog Posting Month.


I was trying to remember the song in the movie Mary Poppins where Mary (Julie Andrews) teaches Jane and Michael how to clean up their room by just snapping their fingers. It was A Spoonful of Sugar.  (Oh, Google, you know everything.)  “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun.  You find the fun aaand … SNAP… the job’s a game.” (What is it with Disney heroines cleaning and singing with birds?)


Well, let’s just say that my clumping is not normally a snap.  But today I started the project of clearing my husband’s and my bedroom. Anticipating the season of company-coming-cleaning, I decided to turn my attention to our own space, counter to my usual impulse.  Like the shoemaker’s children going barefoot, the housekeeper’s quarters are often the last priority. Clearing our bureau was much more of a snap than I anticipated, and I did find an element of fun in the job.  I’ll try to explain:


In the foreground is a soap-on-a-rope.  One year my older sister and I, both in a very punchy mood, were looking through a catalog and, for some reason, asked my husband whether he would like an extremely expensive soap-on-a-rope.  My husband retorted, “If I bought that, I’d be a dope-with-a-soap-on-a-rope.”  I’m sure it was a case of “you had to be there,” but my sister and I laughed until tears were streaming down our faces.  Last year I found this soap — not the same vendor, and very much marked down — and gave it to him as a gift.  Somehow it never made it into the bathroom.  But guess what now awaits him in the shower?

I also found a stash of magazine photos I had cut out quickly one day with my older daughter, with the intention of making a vision board.  You know, telling the universe what it is that you want in your life.


I obviously didn’t put a priority on doing it.  Since then, though, I found an old notebook with pictures I’d glued inside years ago of a home at the New Jersey shore.  This was the exact place my husband and two of his sisters and I rented in September.  Talk about a dream come true.


So, into the notebook go these photos, too.  Much of my wishing is about intangibles like health, love, harmony … and maybe tangible grandchildren.

When I blissfully revisited Mary Poppins to find the song, I picked up something I had never heard in all my many viewings.  At the end of “A Spoonful of Sugar,” Mary is ushering the children to an outing in the park. Michael whines, “I don’t want an outing, I want to tidy up the nursery again.”  To which Mary replies, “Enough is as good as a feast.”  Good thing to remember when wishing.


Before I knew it…SNAP…the job was done!  Spit spot.


Even though, the motto of this blog is more like:


Slow and steady wins the race.

It Pays to Ask

Clump #246: Finish inner paper pile; day four of NaBloPoMo.


Today was another day of getting fired up on the telephone to resolve issues from deep in the molten inner core of our huge paper pile.  Some examples: a magazine subscription notice of payment due, when I don’t remember renewing said subscription.  I googled the name of the magazine and “customer service number,” and spoke to a young woman who seemed embarrassed by the question.  I told her I wanted to pay for magazines I received, but she kept saying, “No, you’re good.  I’ve terminated your subscription.”  I got the distinct impression that this is a way to get forgetful people (like me) to assume they had signaled a renewal … and send in money.  I know the magazine business is bad, but really.


Another was a bill for a medical test at a “doc in a box” for my younger daughter that I had thought I paid at the time of the test.  They said they’d call me back yesterday, but still haven’t.

Inspired by this raft of successful calls, I ordered a Christmas present online, and was trying, unsuccessfully, to use a googled coupon for the store.  I ended up calling the store for help, where a very nice operator told me the coupon wouldn’t work, but said, “I can offer you free shipping.”  I’m saving a lot of money by playing the squeaky wheel.

I took the photos above and below this morning, in an effort to capture the state of transition in the outside world.  Last bursts of glorious color. In the grocery store the seasons were transitioning, too.  I couldn’t decide whether it was a changing of the guard between Halloween and Christmas, or whether it was a war, with Santas and snowmen overpowering the pumpkins.


Ready or not, Christmas is coming!


But please let me soak in the watercolors of autumn for as long as I can.

Pumpkins, Piss N’ Vinegar

Clump #245: Work through inner, inner paper pile; day three of NaBloPoMo.

Oh my, my.  I just caught myself starting to read an article entitled: How to Stop Procrastinating — For Good, while procrastinating writing this post.  I really didn’t even notice for a while; the irony is pretty thick.

Here is a great tip for hapless housekeepers: invite a neat-nick friend over once a week.  My dear friend and fellow The Voice t.v.-show-watching partner came over again tonight for the show.  One week ago she set off the clump that I’m finally peeling back to its essence.  Funny thing about last week: I dumped all sorts of paper in an ugly pile, stashed it in the corner of our study, turned the light out, and pretended that it didn’t exist.  But sometime during the Adam-Blake-Gwen-and-Pharrell-fest I wanted to mapquest a destination for this friend.  She came with me into the study where our computer is, I turned the light back on, and, well … my clumping shame was exposed.  But she came back again this week.  By the end of the Voice season our house should be immaculate. Or maybe I’ll allow myself to relax and be okay with the way things are.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this dichotomy between the public and private self/home.  The pumpkin I carved for Halloween made for an unexpectedly funny illustration.  Private, raw, and untamed:


Public, neat(er), smooth, and composed:


Dark night of the soul:


Put on a happy face:


I got through a bunch of phone calls today from the inner, inner paper pile that I had been putting off, but when confronted, felt very good.  I vented my spleen (where in the world did that expression come from?).  I was full of piss and vinegar (again…?) by the end of the paper pile calls. Not as big and grand as the mammoth herding of newspapers and catalogs of a few days ago, but in terms of sense of accomplishment, it was great.


Small, but far-reaching in impact.

There’s Still Time and Paper

Clump #244:  Inner pile of yesterday’s clump; day two of NaBloPoMo.


Ahhh, the gift of an extra hour, or as a friend put it, getting back what was taken from us last Spring.

I had a meeting early this morning and thought I was running late.  It really brought out the inner two-year-old brat in me (“No, I don’t want to!”), until my husband tipped me off to the fact that I was operating on daylight savings time.  Whoa!  Suddenly, all dressed and with the requisite papers printed out, I had a full hour in which to luxuriate. I made sure I didn’t blow it by luxuriating too long and having to rush out the door for a second time in one morning.  I left a little earlier than I normally would, and was able to marvel at the beauty of the day, above, taking photos along the way.  I left my cup of tea in the car, but had time to retrieve it.


I was the first one at the meeting (ha!), and even had time to take photos from inside:


It was what Winnie-the-Pooh would describe as a blustery day.  Clear and bright.


And as promised, a clearing took place inside our house, too: the inner core of the massive paper pile documented in yesterday’s post.  I organized it all into logical sub-piles, filed the fileable papers, and will work on the “action” pile tomorrow during business hours, since many items require a phone call.

Does everyone know that Bed Bath & Beyond coupons can be used even when expired?  Just checking.  Keep stashing them away and never buy anything there for less than twenty percent off.

Also, speaking of time, I’m currently not feeling love toward Harry & David, who we’ve done business with in previous years, and who kindly send us our gift giving history and catalogs, below.  Let the record show that on September 9 I received an email from them with the title: Judy, There’s Still Time To Order From Your Gift History.  Well I should hope so!  Bah Humbug!


This pile of old notes provided a surprising mash-up of messages.  I was happy to find I had jotted down three things to buy in bulk when on sale this year for a holiday giveaway for the needy: Barbies, nail polish, and wrapping paper, hot items last year.  I must have written “Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in Heaven has in store” from the song “One Day More” from Les Mis for this blog; the penultimate day of a previous challenge?


NOW I’M HERE; DON’T STOP ME NOW sounds like some kind of desperate ransom note, but they were the two Queen songs I jotted down (quickly and messily) that my older daughter wanted me to call her and let her listen to when I and our younger daughter attended a Queen with Adam Lambert concert this summer.  The words away from the concert became oddly inspiring for me today in this challenge.


Don’t Stop Me Now!

Plunging Into the NaBloPoMo Challenge

Clump #243:  Vanquish paper dragon, yet again.  Day one of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month).

Keuka 006

Hello again … I’m back from Baking Land!

Some big things happened when I was gone from the blogosphere.  First, I had a “big” birthday.  To mark the occasion, I was determined to take a dip in the lake where my family and I were staying for the celebration.  Yes, it was October.  Oh, yes, the  water was cold.  My older daughter and youngest niece joined me.  Here are some of the wonderful gifts from the experience:

Keuka 003

  1. My very wise daughter said, on the day we were to take the plunge, “Mom, it’s not going to be any warmer or more light outside than it is now.”  Me: “So true.  Let’s do it.”
  2. I had a very strong image in my mind of exactly what I wanted to do: walk, walk, walk in, with no stopping, then dive from there, float on my back and kick up a big ball of splash (below), the way my mom always did, then get out.  Done and done.  A clear, rock-solid goal is a powerful thing.
  3. My hot, outdoor shower afterward felt like heaven!  Gotta have the cold to fully appreciate the warm.
  4. The whole experience shook off every speck of dust and cobweb (old-lady-ness), inside and out.  Invigorating!

Keuka 004

Also, I completed a writing task that has been hanging over my head for a year. I was aided by life lesson number one, above.  I told myself, “I will never have more time to do it than I have now,” as the deadline bore down on me.  Later, I read said writing in front of a group, which was very big for me, given my history with public speaking.  A flashback to the “presentation speech” I was required to do in junior high or high school (blocked out the year): I had made the mistake of choosing to demonstrate how to make a tissue paper flower, not realizing how much my hands would shake in front of the class.  I told myself that it was loud to me, but maybe the other kids couldn’t hear the rattle of tissue paper shaking — until a class comedian piped up with, “It’s a good thing she’s not working with a knife!”  Ah, memories!


Now, down to business.  The clump. With all the Fall Festival baking, going away to upstate New York, and the big writing project to fret over, the paper-build-up in our house again reached danger level.  My good friend came over to watch The Voice with me last Monday night, so I swooped up all the paper and dumped it in a corner of our oft-beleaguered study.  If its walls could speak they would be crying, “Help, I can’t breathe!”


But here you go, old thing, my work in progress:


And after.  Pile on the right is the clump for tomorrow.


The study breathes a sigh of relief.  Enjoy, indeed.


A happily ever after.

Keuka 002

Until the next time …

Big thanks to my sister Jean for the lake photos!

Festival Day; Baking Challenge Complete

Clump #242:  Finish S’mores Cupcakes; final day of the seven-day bake-a-thon.

So, first off, the marshmallows caught on fire. Funny, now, though not at the time; the parchment paper had been too close to the heating element in the oven.  Oops!  Take two.


The chocolate part of the s’more cupcake called for chocolate ganache, which I had never made before.  Wow.  Cream and really good chocolate.  How can you go wrong?


I used about a tablespoon on each cupcake and spread it out from the center.


After it had set, it was a cinch to wrap … usually a challenge with frosted cupcakes.  Fall Festival, here they come!


I was missing our younger daughter, the queen of chocolate ganache and other culinary wonders, but this year our older daughter flew in for the festival. She played the bride in an annual reenactment of the first wedding in our meetinghouse, held in the eighteenth century.  I played the mother of the groom:


An old Quaker selfie.  Time now to rest these old weary bones!

Not Quite A Piece of Cake

Clump #241:  Bake and decorate Cake Walk cakes; day six of the seven-day bake-a-thon.


So it all started with the magazine pictured above.  A seductive collection of cute cakes that seemed sooo easy and fun.  I argued for keeping the Cake Walk in our Quaker Meeting’s Fall Festival — tomorrow — and I said I could throw together four cakes for four walks.  For those unfamiliar with the game, a group of kids stand upon carpet squares set in a circle.  Underneath each carpet square is written a number.  Music plays, the kids move around the circle, ideally dancing.  When the music stops, all the players stop.  Someone picks a number out of a hat, and whoever is standing on that numbered carpet square wins a cake.  Whoo hoo!

The cakes are usually snazzy numbers with lots of candy.  I used two boxed cake mixes (they were on sale for 99 cents!), figuring I only needed a half for each cake.


As they say, “Mistakes were made.”  I thought the lollipop cake below would be a snazzy one, but didn’t realize I needed to wear gloves in order to knead the food color into the fondant.


I was not happy with the process, nor the color of my hands (even though they were radiant orchid, the Pantone color of the year).


When I got to the part of the recipe that advised taking off the fondant before cutting the cake, I said, “No, I can not do it!”  Note to self: read directions thoroughly.


I went to Plan B, the Henry and Mudge cake from Cynthia Rylant’s book Henry And Mudge And The Best Day Of All, wherein Henry has a birthday cake made to look like his aquarium.  A family favorite.


The others were inspired by the magazine.  Sunflower:


Car (two halves of a round layer, frosted together with an L cut out of one side):


And baby owls:


Wrapped up and ready to go:


Let the games begin!

Buttermilk Banana Blueberry Bliss

Clump #240:  Bake Buttermilk Banana Blueberry Bread; day five of the seven-day bake-a-thon.


Today I made another recipe from the Parade magazine article: “The Most Popular Recipes on Pinterest in Each of the 50 States.”   Buttermilk Banana Blueberry Bread was the top pin in Arkansas, with the words, “Damn Delicious” under the photo. How could I resist?   The recipe’s author enthuses, A great way to use up those lingering, spotty bananas, and the perfect holiday gift that everyone will love!”   Trouble was, those spotty bananas didn’t linger around this house, so I had to thaw one from the freezer and leave a note on the other two:


The recipe makes four mini loaves, which I had imagined to be the size of our mini loaf pans on right.  Not mini enough.  The 5 and 3/4 inch size is on the left.


In other Fall Festival news, I organized the toy room for the Mercantile, the flea market-type sale we hold indoors.  Here is a glimpse of the room before:


And if you ever want to give yourself an anti-materialism vaccine, a job like this will certainly do the trick.  So many junky little plastic things.  I had some help to make the “after” look like this:


And here is the “after” for the bbbbread:


The aroma is decidedly Damn Delicious,  and quite heavenly.  I might just have to buy one myself and get the full effect.

More S’mores

Clump #239:  Bake graham cracker cupcakes; day four of seven-day bake-a-thon: one baked-good-a-day to avoid the usual pre-Fall Festival log jam.


Some days contain more darkness than light: exhibit my tired, worn down, and shadow-like emotional state.  But even on a day like today, baking was accomplished.

I spent this past summer with the intention of making S’mores Cupcakes from a recipe I saw in Real Simple magazine.  I never got around to it, so the time is now!

Progress alert: I probably tossed the magazine containing the recipe in a recycling bag during one of my paper purges.  But no problem … I easily found it online.  Let that be a lesson.  I really don’t have to have so much paper around me.


The cake is the graham cracker part of the S’mores equation.  It contains one cup of graham cracker crumbs, or nine crackers.  How many crackers in a package?  Nine.  Very satisfying.


This was my maternal grandmother’s rolling pin.  It gives me confidence, when using it, to know that she was renowned for her pies.


Disaster was averted by my husband who managed to finesse the gears back into the Kitchen Aid mixer.  Heavens, is it telling me that I’m doing too much baking?


And the finished cupcakes, cooling down.  I’ll freeze, thaw, and finish them later.  They smell really-really good.


Ready or not, October is here and, like my goose friend in Strasburg …


one must gear-up and get with it!

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle

Clump #238:  Bake Pumpkin Snickerdoodles; day three of seven day bake-a-thon.


Today’s recipe (or clump, if you may) is a cookie that was featured in Parade magazine as the most popular recipe on Pinterest from the state of Oregon.  All fifty states’ top recipes can be found here.


The recipe called for a dash of allspice, and I was excited to use teeny little measuring spoons that belong to my younger daughter.  I never knew the difference between a dash, a smidgen, and a pinch before we had these.


The finished product.  Are they as luscious as the photo in Parade magazine?  Is the pumpkin flavor too subtle to the point of nonexistent?   Purchase a couple at the Fall Festival and you tell me.


In they go with their cookie cousins.


Happiness is …  a freezer full of cookies …


And fabulous Fall color!

Our Family’s Favorite Cookie

Clump #237:  Bake molasses cookies; day two of seven-day bake-a-thon for upcoming Fall Festival bake sale.


If I were to write an ode to a cookie, it would be to this.  The humble molasses cookie.  Comforting, aromatic, replete with family history.  My mother-in-law began the tradition.  Early in my married life, I was there to hear one of her older granddaughters say, “Grandma, this is the perfect cookie.”   If that memory doesn’t call her to mind, there’s the molasses bottle itself:


My careless drips fall like a string of beads.


I’ve made these cookies so many times that the steps feel meditative.  Sifting the dry ingredients:


I love using wax paper.


The rolling of the cookies is like sculpting with play dough.


And the final product, ready for the freezer.


As Quakers have said through the years: “Simple but of good quality.”

From the Don’t Eat Your Heart Out Cookbook, by Joseph C. Piscatella


2 C all-purpose flour     1/4 teaspoon salt     1 teaspoon baking powder     1 teaspoon baking soda     1/2 teaspoon ground cloves     1  1/4  teaspoon ground ginger     1  1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 C safflower oil     1/4 C molasses     1 egg or 1/4 C egg substitute     1 C firmly packed brown sugar     granulated sugar

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon.  Set aside.  Using lowest speed of electric mixer, blend oil, molasses and egg; add sugar.  Blend.  Gradually add flour and dry ingredients; mix well.

Chill dough 2 hours.  Form into 1-inch balls.  Roll each ball in granulated sugar.  Place on baking sheets.  Sprinkle each cookie with 2-3 drops of water.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  (I always opt for 8 minutes.)






Cranking Up a Seven Day Baking Challenge

Clump #236:  Bake chocolate chip and Reeses Pieces cookies; day one of 7-day bake-a-thon.


Not to mention any names, but a few people in my life might possibly accuse me of taking too many pictures.  Once I start, I find it difficult to stop.  I admit, it can get annoying, but if I didn’t have so many images to choose from, I may not have had the one above, which, now that I see it again, is the perfect illustration for my blog-making machinery in full-stop.

I took the photo at The Mill at Anselma on a recent visit with my husband. From its website: “Constructed in 1747, the Mill stands as the most intact, authentic example of a custom water-powered grain mill in the United States …”

Let the blog-wheels turn again!


When I last posted, I was riding a wave of adrenaline on a 30-day challenge before a visit from two of my husband’s sisters.  We truly had a grand time together.  Here are the three siblings watching a sunset “down the shore,” as they say around here:


After a challenge, the question arises, “What now?  How often do readers really want to hear from me?  Does anyone care?  Is posting every day too annoying?”  (Dark night of the soul existential blogging questions.)

My husband and I were skyping with our younger daughter today (she’s the one studying in Russia), and I was fretting over the fact that she will not be here to do her usual amazing baking job for our Quaker Meeting’s Fall Festival.  And I don’t use the word “amazing” lightly.  I have a certain tendency to come up with great ideas for fun baking projects, but lack the time management skills to pull them off.  Not so with our daughter.

She, wisely, told me, “Just bake one thing every day before the festival … One clump a day.”  Oh my goodness, why in the world hadn’t I been able to figure that out?

So here we go!  Day one, starting easy.  Basic chocolate chip cookies made from the recipe on the Ghirardelli chocolate chip bag with Reeses Pieces to add seasonal color and pizazz.  I noticed I was using a potholder with a fall festival theme … tra-la!


This is what’s fun about baking for the festival.  I’d never tried this before, sticking candies onto cookie dough …


but it worked!


Double-bagged and popped into the freezer.


Voila, indeed!

I Made It To 30 Days

Clump #235:  Return furniture to carpeted rooms; final cooking and cleaning for guests; bring Dickens collection to car.   Day 30 of the 30 day challenge … baby!

Oh, the adrenaline is flowing, friends.  But one blissful fact lifts me up: Day Thirty!!  Whoo-Hooo!


Let me make one thing perfectly clear: my husband’s sisters are the greatest.  Fun, warm, down-to-earth, generous … just about any positive adjective you might imagine; I can’t wait to see them.  If they were here, they’d say, “Don’t fuss!”  So my pre-guest anxiety is wholly and completely of my own making, out of proportion to reality.  I guess that’s the puzzle I’m trying to solve in these posts.

Thank you so much for reading and following along this month.  Your support has meant so much to me, whether I’ve heard from you or not.  It’s always a surprise when I’ve received comments.  Really?  You’ve been reading?  How wonderful!  The following message was emailed to me today by a very dear friend.  I want to embroider it on a pillow … after I stop tearing up.

relax and enjoy your sister-in-laws visit.
I’m sure everything looks lovely!
No need to reveal what is hidden or
apologize for whatever you didn’t get to
You have a lovely home.
don’t forget you live there
And its the heart & soul of your family
home is where the heart is
and yours is filled with a lot of love
So please relax & don’t fret
 As promised, Charles has left the building.  The complete Dickens collection is in the back of the car, ready to donate tomorrow morning.  If they don’t sell at Fall Festival, I will give (read, lug) them to Goodwill.  (Sorry the font just shrunk … another puzzle I’m too tired to solve.)
At the end of this challenge, I’m whittling down my to-do list to what is practical for the very little time left.  But I’ve been keeping up with the mail and newspapers.  (I say with a shake of the fist!)  Yesterday’s Cryptoquote solution, in today’s paper, was so very apt. I can’t expect the house-transformation equivalent of a twenty-year-old tree.  But second best is pretty darn good.
I’ll end with a photo I took this evening from the car on the way home from visiting my mom.

The cows were coming home.  I stuck this challenge out ’til the …

The Weight of The World in our Arms

Clump #234:  Clear out bedrooms in advance of carpet cleaner; day 29 of 30-day challenge … one more day!


The clump for today was a tremendous achievement, but not in terms of getting stuff out of the house.  Our son and I had to clear the bedrooms and basement floors of every bit of clutter before a carpet cleaner arrived. Our older daughter’s room had been serving as a holding zone for clumps that our younger daughter had mined from the basement … it was especially grueling. Too late to do the necessary sorting and decision making.

In summary, scheduling a carpet cleaner felt like the best and worst thing I could have done.  Wow.  Up close and personal with our excess belongings.  The previously cleared-out basement storage area is now re-clogged.  Nooo!


I had taken the photo below of an old Parade magazine during the big paper purge.  This is exactly the way I felt today. We were working against the clock, and at one point, I said to our son, “What would I do without you?”  With a strained expression and pleading tone of voice he answered, “Start earlier?”  From the mouth of babes (or dudes, or gents …).  The truth hurts, as do my sore muscles and back.


I guess people pay good money to do step aerobics with weights. That’s essentially what the job felt like.  The complete works of Charles Dickens, below, weigh about a gazillion pounds.  I have hauled them from my parent’s bookshelves to our home, to at least two used book sellers (who were not interested in buying them); our younger daughter hauled them upstairs, and I lugged them back down to the basement. Somehow this description doesn’t seem to include enough hauling steps, but you’ll just have to trust me.  Talk about an albatross.  Enough is enough!  I’ll donate them to whoever will have them.  This will be the first clump out of the basement.  I promise.


I’ve got the motivation, I’m in the Tow Away Zone,


soon the wheels will be on and the junk will be moving.

Sowing Seeds of Self-Acceptance

Clump #233: Clear and clean downstairs for neighborhood meeting; day 29 of the 30-day challenge … almost there!

Anxiety Alert!  Today I had to get the house in shape for a neighborhood meeting, which was also a good kickstart to prepare for the visit of the Aunties (two of my husband’s sisters).  I will not post before and after photos of our house.  Suffice it to say it was a fairly dramatic change.  I’ll substitute before and after pictures I took this past weekend on a garden tour.  The photo below (held down with a nut?) was taken two weeks before the garden tour and displayed by the owners for all to see:


This was the way the garden looked the day of the the tour:


Kindred spirits like me, they obviously needed a deadline to get motivated.  Below, their charming water feature:


I did a lot of thinking about the unrealistic expectations I set for myself/my house when company comes.  I kept trying to remember that the most important aspect of having guests over is my own state of mind.  Who wants to be with someone all stressed out and frazzled? Anxiety is a bad hostess vibe with which to infuse an occasion.  I will never be Martha Stewart.  HA-ha-ha!  Something anyone who has ever read this blog does not need to be told!

There was one Martha-like garden on the tour:


Every detail perfection.


Harmonious, color coordinated, divine.


So much “wow” packed into a relatively small space.


I must tell myself that such perfection is not in my nature.  It would make me way too cranky to bear!

Mail Basket and Beacon Hill

Clump #232:  Clear out mail basket; day 28 of the 30-day challenge.

I am so tired.  Before I fall asleep at the keyboard, here’s a small clump I forced myself to sort through.  A pile of old papers is like an archeological dig …  on the top, my Rosamunde Pilcher collection of novels that our younger daughter fished out of the basement for my post-surgical recovery (I actually chose to read Maeve Binchy, also cozy reading, featuring tea-drinking characters from the British Isles), and the “trashy” book my husband bought in the airport for vacation … ah, memories.


And, after, with a few remaining papers for discussion:


One reason I’m feeling so exhausted is a bit of work on behalf of our neighborhood association.  When I was in Boston this summer I took a walk through the Beacon Hill neighborhood.  My Fodor’s guide book recommended a tour that took me through Louisburg Square, below. Huh.  I just googled it to make sure of the spelling and found a Wikipedia entry saying that “the square has been mistakenly assumed to be private property but is, in actuality, owned by the City of Boston …” Who are you going to believe, Wikipedia or Fodor’s?  My guidebook said Louisburg Square was the first Homeowner’s Association in the United States.  I got a kick out of that.

It’s a U-shaped collection of very exclusive homes with a small park in the center.  One home is owned by John Kerry.


Louisa May Alcott died in another (not necessarily this one)


If, indeed, they do have a Homeowner’s Association, I wonder how much they pay in dues?


And what issues come up at their meetings?  Doorway beautification requirements?


Cobblestone maintenance?


Tempests in tea pots, all.  And speaking of tea, more tea please!

Baby Steps

Clump #231:  Start clearing out younger daughter’s room; day 27 of the 30-day challenge.


I’m coming down to the finish of the get-ready-for-compay challenge.  Yikes.  It’s time to start cleaning out the rooms where my sisters-in-law will be staying.  This will have to suffice as a “before” photo for our younger daughter’s room.  I don’t want to embarrass her.  She spent a lot of time doing a miraculous job of clearing out the basement.  She also put a bunch of old photos in albums, and this is the corner where she kept the supplies.  I can’t fault her too much for leaving her room in less than optimal condition, given how much she helped out.


A dear reader of this blog sent me the following quote, which really sums up the essence of Clump A Day:

A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.     –Anthony Trollope


Right now, even a spasmodic Hercules sounds good to me … but I continue to clump step by step by step …