Back from my World Tour

5 03 2012

I had fully intended to arrange for posts to be published while I was globe trotting over the past twelve days, but the best laid plans, as they say…

I’m currently on the final flight of my journey for this trip – flight eight of eight in twelve days. And yes, that’s as exhausting as it sounds. We have been to England, Austria, Italy, Dubai (just the airport) and Malaysia, and I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed…for all of five minutes before I am off again.

It’s a busy month.

With only about 5 days home the entire month of March (yes, I’m serious), there isn’t much handy homeownering going on. But I can share with you a few photos from my recent travels, and you may want to know some of my tips for settling your house for a long trip away.

It’s gotten to the point now that I get so anxious and crazy about getting ready for a trip that when I recently was getting my house in shape for a guest and rushing about, Barney believed that we were going to be going in the car, and actually willingly put his leash on every day.

Boy, was he disappointed when we went for a walk instead.

But finally, all that rushing about did mean travel. And this was a big trip. 12 days, three destinations, three different climates.

I had picked up a new light suitcase, with four rolling wheels (my dream suitcase, by the way) using airline miles – same place I got my Keurig. I used Ollie’s crate as my suitcase tray, and started my packing early. Even when I give packing an extra day, I always find that it takes me a long time, stresses me out, and results in more running around and laundry, which means I don’t get the chance to relax and snuggle my boys before having to leave on a trip.

So this time, I was determined to give myself extra time. That’s my first tip – start preparing early. There is always something that will crop up when you’re getting ready to leave (like my washing machine difficulties, which I’m dreading coming home to) so you want to be prepared, so you have at least one night to veg out on the couch before you’re off.

The other thing I do, which may seem silly to a lot of people, is give the house a good cleaning. There’s nothing nicer than coming home to a clean house – it’s like coming to a freshly cleaned hotel room, but it’s your own home, which never feels so good than when you’ve been away for a long time.

This trip, I’d arranged to put my boys in their new puppy day camp for the day, and to get baths, before picking them up to drive up to my parents’ where they’d be staying with my mom while I was away. (This is another great tip by the way – the money spent to get them out of my hair while I packed up the car, did the final once over, and cleaned up a bit, as well as got them cleaned up, was well worth it!).

This gave me the chance to do a few last minute “tidies” – I used my swiffer mop to clean the doggie footprints from the floor (they are ALWAYS there!), put their toys away and made sure everything was straightened up. It makes me happy to think about coming home to my nice clean house.

The other two must-do’s before a long trip are running the dishwasher and taking out the garbage. I do a once-over of the refrigerator to make sure that anything that will expire while I’m away gets thrown out. Nothing like coming home to two week old milk when you’ve been away.

Along those lines, I also take out the recycling – the house will smell if you leave even a little bit of milk in the container (and there always is, no matter how well you rinse it), so it’s important to get that outside too. If you’re lucky like me, you might also have neighbors who put your trash and recycling out for you while you’re away, so you’re not coming home to overflowing garbage.

As for the dishwasher, as long as you’re comfortable that it’s not going to suddenly spring a leak, stick it on to come on once you’ve left. I ran mine the night before leaving because it was full, and then again with the dishes from that day – not exactly the most eco-friendly, but again, it cuts down on any food smells you may come home to if you left your dirty dishes for a couple of weeks.

Security is another concern. I lock my house up tight, shut the shades, and put on the alarm before I go, but it can look as if no one is home. I have lights set to come on using timers, and I keep these on even when I am home, so it’s not obvious that I’m not there (minus the always closed shades, of course). I also get help from my neighbors – my next door neighbor takes in my mail (if you don’t trust your neighbors to do this, you can put a hold on your mail through the post office) and parks his car in the driveway. This way, it looks like someone is home. My other neighbors of course know that it’s not my car, but anyone coming into the neighborhood who is unfamiliar with it wouldn’t.

Another tip is to turn down your heating or air conditioning, depending on the season. Although I have a programmable thermostat set up, it doesn’t make much sense to be heating the house when I’m not there. So I turn it down fairly low (above freezing to keep the pipes from freezing – that’s why you never just turn it off when you’re going away). Ideally, I would be able to control my heating and air conditioning from my phone, as you see in the commercials, so that I could get the house warm and toasty for our arrival, but that’s not in the budget right now!

And finally, sometimes, I’ll also stick in some new air fresheners before I leave. I tend to become de-sensitized to the existing ones, and leaving the house with new ones means I’ll come home to a lovely smelling house.

One final tip – online grocery shopping. When you get home from a long trip, the last thing you want to do is stop by the grocery store. But it can be rather depressing to eat yet another take-out/non-home-cooked meal the first night back, or even just looking in a bare fridge. I can order groceries and arrange delivery from my cell phone through Peapod the day before I come home, so that the food will arrive just after I do – convenient, worth the fee, and a nice way to stock up the house.

Since I’m gone a LOT this month, I may or may not order groceries for this return. Most likely, I’ll stop at the convenience store up the street to pick up milk and call it a day. I should warn my mom about that, since she’ll be staying at my house during my next business trip to watch my pumpkins.

What are your tips for what to do with your house when you’re traveling?

 





In the “Somedays I Just Can’t Win” Category…

20 02 2012

So last night, all I wanted to do was watch the last three episodes of Downton Abbey. The first one that I hadn’t seen was airing at 6pm, and of course, I forgot – but luckily, I’d already set the DVR. I thought I’d just run the steam mop around quickly (as I’d been in bed on and off until three with a terrible migraine) and then jump into watching the show.

That might have been what happened if my washing machine hadn’t gone on the fritz. And by “on the fritz,” I mean, leaking like a sieve when it’s running.

It’s awesome. No, really.

I noticed it when water was coming out of the bathroom as I was cleaning. Fortunately, the steam cleaner has a water vacuum function, and it wasn’t a lot of water. I couldn’t figure out why it was happening – I can tell that it’s coming from the drain hose and not the incoming water pipes (fortunately!), but I don’t know if it’s because the machine is unbalanced or because there’s an actual leak. There seemed to be some feathers in the water, so it might even be a clog from washing my comforter the other day.

I was just glad that I’d pretty much finished my laundry for my trip, so nothing else needed to be done. Since I’m trying to relax a little (and failing as I’m running around like a nut trying to finish everything up before I go), I decided to just leave the washer problem until I get back from my trip, and then have someone come to take a look at it.

So fine.

After all that hoopla, I did finally get to watch Downton, though I had to stay up until 1:30 to watch all of it. No problem, since I was off today anyway, with just a conference call scheduled for the afternoon, and having to run the pups over to camp this morning.

But of course, I couldn’t fall asleep until about 5am. That was awesome also. Then, I couldn’t stay asleep past nine, because I have a funny little muscle pull in my neck that kept me from getting comfortable. Okay, all manageable. I got up, got the boys to camp, worked, packed up the car, and did a few little other things around the house. I’ve made it my goal to finish all my DVR’d shows before I leave, since I want to free up space, so I thought I’d plunk down in front of the tv, relax with my boys and have a nice quiet night.

Of course, after I came down from putting my pj’s on, I went to sit on the couch (with it’s newly washed slipcover – the last thing to make it through the wash before the floods started)….and Barney had thrown up on it. Enough that it definitely had to go in the wash again.

So here I am, washing the slipcover, and battling the water…I’m pretty sure now that it IS a clog, because when I run the washer at what is normally it’s largest capacity, the water is filling up to the lid, and sloshing over the sides of the inner metal tub. Super.

And did I mention that my upstairs toilet is clogged again too for no apparent reason?

Could this possibly be related?

All I know is that I’m sticking with my plan…watching tv, snuggling with my pups…oh, and a little mopping. Let’s hope tomorrow is a smoother day!





Spring…er, February Cleaning

19 02 2012

So, the only cleaning chore I actually like doing is laundry. To me, it’s the most tangible – clothes are dirty, you put them in the washing machine and dryer, and they come out clean and smelling nice! Plus, it’s the only thing that the dogs can’t seem to dirty up immediately!

I realized recently that there are some spring cleaning-type things that I should be doing involving the laundry…like washing my pillows and comforter. I was reading in a magazine yesterday that you can, and should, wash pillows regularly, and it’s something that I forget to do. So tonight, after my regular laundry was finally finished, I put the pillows in with some fresh powdered detergent from Sweet Grass Farms. My mom had gotten me some of their laundry sachets for the dryer for Christmas, so I recently ordered some of their powdered detergent and fabric softener, and it does make my laundry smell so lovely and fresh.

It’s a good idea to get in the habit of washing some of the “extras.” The week before last, I washed all the dogs’ toys, and went through them at the same time to throw out any that were a bit torn (just used regular detergent and no fabric softener for those!).  I also am trying to wash their bedding on a weekly basis, since the yard has been a bit on the grungy side thanks to Ollie, who is systematically destroying it in every way possible. So they’re bringing in more dirt, and I’m trying to cut down on it.

It’s so nice to walk into a room with everything that can be washed being freshly laundered. It makes me think of the spring to come! So while I promised I wasn’t doing any major housework this weekend, I am doing a bit of “spring cleaning!”

And I stuck to my promise to work on de-cluttering, and did another section of the closet this afternoon.  That leaves me with just one side of the hanging stuff to go through, and I’m done. I’ve found that breaking the closet down into sections has made me far more ruthless, which is a good thing. For example, I just went through my shoes the other day. Normally, I’ll take everything out of the closet, get through a little bit of it, and then tire of the project and end up sticking a lot of things back in there because I don’t want to do the work of deciding what I should really keep.

But by splitting it up into smaller tasks each day (I used to treat the closet as one task by itself, but it really is a huge project), I’m much better at going through everything and identifying what I really wear, what no longer fits, what doesn’t really work with my style, and what I just don’t like.  I admit that I didn’t take any before pictures, because I really was too embarrassed, but I’ll definitely take some afters…and then when I’m back from my month of travel, I can finally paint that closet too!

But I didn’t just separate out the things I’m no longer going to keep – I put them in my car right away, and took two trips this weekend to donate them already. If I don’t, I find I’m just exchanging one mess for another – they go from cluttering up my closet to cluttering up the basket in the hallway. So I’m really happy with myself for ripping the bandaid off, being honest about what to keep, and paring things down. The closet looks so much better already!





This Week in Pins

17 02 2012

I owe you all a bit of a mea culpa – it wasn’t that I forgot to post after Monday. It’s just that I was having a rather stressful (read: having trouble breathing because I was so stressed out) week, and I couldn’t bring myself to focus on the more enjoyable things in life, like blogging here.

But here I am tonight, with some of my pins from this week. Before I share those though, I wanted to mention a few things that made me happy this week around the house:

  • Scented drawer liners: I know I mentioned that I was doing some de-cluttering (and I’m definitely working on it – went through my shoes earlier tonight!) and as I was de-cluttering some of my drawers, I found a box of drawer liners that I was saving. They’re Crabtree & Evelyn’s Nantucket Briar, and while I ordinarily do not go for such a flouncy scent, this one is just perfect for drawer liners.  I put one in my bedside table, so every night when I open it to get my journal and hand cream, I breathe in the smell and it makes me feel just a little bit peaceful.
  • Cleaning routine: In the last few months, I’d gotten far, far away from my cleaning routine.  So that meant I was either doing ALL the cleaning on the weekends, or the house was getting messier and messier until I couldn’t stand it anymore.  This week, I resolved to get back to my routine of doing one or two cleaning chores a night, and I stuck to it! So all I have left for this weekend is to take out the garbage, vacuum, and steam clean the floors downstairs. I feel like a lady of leisure!
  • Packing: I think this one made me the happiest. Normally, the few days before I leave for a trip are unbelievably hectic. I didn’t consciously realize this until last week, when I was a cleaning whirling dervish in anticipation of my friend’s visit, and all of my anxiety and running around-ness made Barney (the basset hound) convinced that we were going for a road trip to my parents’ house. I thought he was just excited for a walk, he thought I was going to put him in the car. So in an effort to not be a lunatic banshee (who, moi?), I thought I’d start my clothing plan/packing process very early – that’s right, I said clothing plan. Despite doing the international travel thing for the last seven and a half years, I have not gotten any more efficient at packing. I create a clothing plan that identifies exactly what I’m wearing for every single meeting, meal and event I have planned. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of getting dressed when I’m away, which is often helpful since sometimes, I have about five minutes to get dressed before dashing off somewhere else.  But it also stresses me out (and takes HOURS to do) because I have to try on outfits to see what works together, what fits, etc. I finished the clothing plan on Thursday night, and actually was able to get most of the clothes I’ll need packed and/or laundered. So there’s just a little bit more laundry to do and the packing of all my other bits and pieces (computer equipment and cords, camera and lenses, makeup, that kind of thing) and I’ll be ship shape!
  • Miscellaneous: And some non-home-related things that made me happy this week: Mindy Kaling’s book – it’s laugh out loud while you’re reading funny. I highly recommend it. Downton Abbey – don’t tell me what happens, I still have a couple of episodes to catch up on. Love me some cousin Matthew! Camp Bow Wow – Ollie went there twice this week, and it helped me be more efficient. Twice next week too, for him and Barney. Episodes of Ellen – it was the best idea I’ve ever had to start DVRing her talk show so I could watch it again – she makes me laugh, reminds me I can dance for no reason (which I’ve started to do while cleaning), and always gives back to people on her show who need help, which puts my life into perspective.

Now, on to the pins!

 

Advice I needed to tell myself every day this week.

 

My sister has said she doesn’t get the obsession with chevrons. I like them, though I don’t have any in my home. I think if you like chevrons, but aren’t sure where to start with bringing them into your home, a pillow is a good place!

 

Another quote I need to tattoo on my forehead.

 

Daniel. A good one.

Source: etsy.com via Lindsay on Pinterest

 

Umm, do these not look divine? Sea salt caramels wrapped around marshmallows?!? Sign me up….

 

I love this picture – it is so Barney’s dream life.

Source: houzz.com via Lindsay on Pinterest

 

I can’t believe I’ve never seen this idea before – I absolutely love the idea of hanging a ladder from the ceiling that you can hang clothes on. I’m trying to figure out how it would work in my tiny bathroom/laundry room.

 

Another in the good ideas department – if you’re painting something, like the letter above, put push pins into the back of it, so that the paint doesn’t dry to the surface your painting it on.

 

A Daniel bonus. From Casino Royale.

 

Don’t you just adore this cabinet?

 

Yup, needs to be on my mirror.

Source: thechive.com via Lindsay on Pinterest

 

Do people really not know who Paul McCartney is? I was a little more than horrified by this….

 

I’m not sure I’m ever brave enough to go black on the walls, but isn’t this room fabulous?

 

Since I first saw them on HGTV, I am obsessed with the idea of using barn doors in the house like this. I would love to replace my yucky closet doors with something like this!

 

This just makes me laugh. Every time.

 

Another good one.

 

What a beautiful door!

 

This cracks me up, particularly since we had an amazing a capella group in college who would sing that song.

 

What a darling shower curtain.  As my friend Maura would say “put a bird on it!”





Monday, Monday…Can’t Trust That Day

13 02 2012

That was just the first thing that popped into my head as I was trying to decide on a title for this post. Welcome to another Monday, handy homeowners!

Now I feel like the host of a children’s show.

Ahem.

So today left me feeling rather victorious in that I FINALLY got my upstairs toilet working. I’d tried my funky method of unclogging a toilet for a couple of days, with no success.  I was really starting to feel like I might have to call a plumber, but I just didn’t want to. So instead, I’d wait for the water to drain, flush it, plunge like a mad woman, and hope for the best.

And finally, that just worked today. Hallelujah!

Of course, I’m now having a problem with the downstairs toilet running, although that seems to have resolved itself this afternoon as well. Let’s hope that’s the end of my plumbing issues for a WHILE. I still have to install that bathroom faucet though…

But I promised myself, no big projects until after I return from all my travel. It just gets me into too much trouble!

Today was also a big day in our house – Oliver James went to an interview at Camp Bow Wow. They’re a day camp for dogs, as well as a boarding facility.  Since I’ve got a bunch of travel coming up, Ollie and Barney will have to spend a little time away from me. I found this place online, it’s not too far from my house, and I really like the idea that a) they “interview” the dogs to make sure that they play well together and b) I can watch my pups on a web cam whenever I want! That gives me a lot of confidence.

I was a wee bit nervous that Ollie might be too rambunctious for this place, but it turned out to be just perfect for him. He ran around for about four and a half hours with other dogs, and made a new friend named Sam, who is a border collie. Now that he’s home, he’s been conked out on the floor for almost two hours! It’s gotten me thinking that he might be getting some day camp time during the week when I’m working.

Barney has to wait until next week because he only got his kennel cough vaccine today, so that’s our next hurdle. He’s an excellently behaved dog, but he is nervous around dogs he doesn’t know, so I’m hoping it all goes well. I’ve signed Ollie up to go with him, so he’ll know someone (that helps his mommy too!), so he should be fine, and maybe it will even draw him out of his shell a little!

Plus, I’m pretty excited that it gives me a few hours to pack up the car in anticipation of my trip, without dogs crying because I’ve left them inside or they’re anticipating a road trip!  It’s the little things…

Tonight’s plan is to do my regularly scheduled cleaning of the kitchen (I’ve been bad lately about doing a little cleaning every day, and end up having to do it all at once, so I’m trying to get back into my routine) and some decluttering. I spent about an hour last night scanning in old receipts – it seems to work best if I can do that at night, because then the software has time to process all of the pieces, and I can sort them electronically the next day. Slowly, but surely, I’m going paperless and de-cluttering.

I should really start on the closet tonight….maybe I’ll post before and after pictures of that!





This Week on Pinterest!

12 02 2012

After a lovely weekend with my friend, Maura, I’m back! We had dinner out on Friday night, she got me hooked on Downton Abbey (I’m through series one, can’t wait to start series two!), and Saturday was spent shopping, cooking, eating, catching up and watching Old School and Downton Abbey.  We realized this morning that we’ve known each other for about 18 years! which is more than half our lives – friends like that are great to have!

And now, here I am with my favorite pins from last week!

 

This is from a Pinterest project I’m working on – a cool idea from a fellow contributor over at Opinionehted.com.  She posted this picture of her bedroom, created a collaborative pinboard, and invited several of us to pin ideas for what to do with the room there – very, very cool idea!

 

This was one of my suggestions for the bedding – I’m a fan of sticking with all white bedding (so that you can do whatever you want with wall color/etc.) and either using accent pillows and throws in bold colors, or using all white, but involving different textures, as above.

Source: houzz.com via Lindsay on Pinterest

 

I also suggested using a statement piece over the bed, though not necessarily this mirror. Also, don’t you just love this wall color??

 

I like a good funky lampshade too – these ones that I found with postcard writing in them are just beautiful. It depends on the mood you’re going for in the room though; something like this might be too romantic for your sweetie!

Source: etsy.com via Lindsay on Pinterest

 

Creating an accent wall is also a good option.. This pin links to the etsy shop where this girl sells these Chevron stripes.  I haven’t incorporated them into my house anywhere yet, but I think they can be funky.

 

Moving on…here are some beautiful doors I saw!

Source: google.com via Lindsay on Pinterest

 

And although I don’t love yellow, I just adore this tub.  I admit that tubs like this aren’t great for tall people like me, but don’t they look pretty??

 

 

A lovely picture of Daniel!

 

And my favorite picture of Daniel of all time – with Dame Judy Dench!

Source: kitchens.com via Lindsay on Pinterest

 

I didn’t even know farmhouse sinks came in other colors. Isn’t this gorgeous??

 

And finally, a little painting humor for you. This just cracked me up!

So what projects is everyone working on this week? I am happy to say that my house is clean, I put the dishwasher on and the towels in the wash after dropping Maura off at the bus station, and they’re just about done, so the house is in nice shape to start the week.  I am dealing with a clogged toilet again, so that’s less than exciting, and I’m starting to get ready for a big trip I’m taking in ten days, so I’ll be focusing more on some de-cluttering around here.

For one, my bedroom closet is getting totally out of control.  I almost got hit in the head with a falling boot this morning. That will definitely need some attention, pronto! And I foresee some additional scanning and shredding coming up (although I am starting to need a new recycling can – with the recycling being picked up only every two weeks here, it’s a bit difficult to keep it all under control!). So lots to do, and less time to do it in!





A Clean House and Some Recommendations

10 02 2012

My house is finally clean!

The stack of papers I had scheduled to scan and shred this week are scanned and shredded. The laundry (including all the guest bedding, all the dog bedding, and all the dog toys!) is finished! Carpets and floors are vacuumed and steam cleaned. Fabrics are febreezed. Piles have been gone through and put away. Clothes have been donated (though that’s also still a work in progress – I haven’t touched the closet yet!).

Whew. I’m exhausted.

Particularly since I’ve been working full-time and it’s been a busy work-week too, so all of this has been post-work. I need a nap.

But although I don’t always love the process of cleaning (I did try to make it more fun by blasting some music this time), I do love the feeling of sitting down on the couch with a clean home around me.

Let’s see how long it lasts before my pups wreak their messy havoc around them. I may be responsible for the piles of stuff, but this week has had more than it’s share of muddy footprints, dried drool, toy stuffing strewn everywhere, and stinky breath!

At any rate, I wanted to share with you some recommended reading tonight (er, tomorrow, since most of you are likely sleeping already!). Here are some of my favorite bloggers:

  • Between the Two – this is my mom’s blog, but I think you’ll enjoy reading her posts, which cover daily life of being married to an Englishman (my dad), and having two basset hounds, two grandchildren, and even two houses, between their main home and their future retirement home.
  • Mommy Musings – this is my sister’s blog, where she talks about her life as a stay at home mom to two adorable girls (my nieces) and wife to her cop hubby. Always a great read!
  • Lindy in the Kitchen - written by my sister’s best friend, Linda’s blog focuses on retro cooking – she’s got some fabulous recipes, and, being Italian, was raised to cook expertly!
  • The Pioneer Woman – Ree Drummond’s blog is a can’t miss. I started reading it a few years ago when a friend mentioned that she also had a basset hound (Charlie). She’s since added Walter the basset, and her blog focuses on life on a ranch in the midwest, where she raises and homeschools her four kids, and in the past couple of years, has developed and written two cookbooks, a children’s book, a biography of her love story with her husband, and filmed her Food Network cooking show. She is truly hilarious.
  • Organized Home – want to get organized? The Organized Home has some great tips. And subscribing will constantly make you feel guilty remind you to get to work on your own home!
  • The Lettered Cottage – Layla and Kevin make me want to be a better home decorator and do-it-myself-er. They have a BEAUTIFUL home that they’ve been renovating themselves, in a very modern/country/Pottery Barn-esque way.  It’s truly fabulous, and they have some great how-to’s in there as well as before and after’s of their home (and others).  They’ve just finished wrapping the pilot for their very own HGTV show, and I can’t wait to see it!
  • tumbledweeds – written by a friend of mine from college, this is one of the most beautiful blogs I read. She writes about the journey of motherhood from a Christian perspective (I’ll note that while I’m fairly spiritual, I’m not particularly religious, but I just love her posts), and she gets you thinking and reminds you to have grace and find beauty in your life. It’s one of those blogs that when I see she has a new post, I stop whatever I’m doing to read it.
  • Brocante Home – Alison May’s blog focuses on vintage housekeeping. It’s a favorite of my mom’s, who got me hooked on reading it. Not everything in here is for me, but she is funny and quirky, and her guides on de-cluttering, housekeeping, and more are some of the best I’ve seen.

So that’s my recommended reading for this week – make sure to subscribe to these blogs in your readers (or “follow” them if you’re a Blogger user – my mom is constantly looking to grow her followers!). I will try to post my Pinterest pins from this week (I have so many great Daniel Craig pictures to choose from!), but I have a good friend from high school arriving tomorrow (hence the whirlwind cleanse) and you may just see me on Sunday night instead!








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