Sunday, January 31, 2010

Scenic Sunday

Fog, mountain and trees along the Coquihalla Hwy. For more scenery around the world, see here

Saturday, January 30, 2010

On My Way & Frugal Questions

Ahhhhh, I finally did something nice for myself in the last 24 hours. I had a deep conditioning hair treatment and trim last night. It felt good to see my hair swing luxuriously after a nice cut and it was sooooo soft. I haven't had a salon hair conditioning treatment for so long. I try very hard to live economically and frugally so I can send funds to Kenya. See here for the Missions of Hope a worthy mission in need of your support.

And today I broke down and got some spa treatments. I travel tomorrow and where I am going it is very dry. I decided to have a hydrating facial and paraffin treatments for the hands and feet. I haven't had a facial in about a year and half. That is really too long a period and my skin was quite clogged even though I wash religiously, exfoliate and don't wear facial make up.

I've never had a parrafin treatment for the feet before. Just once for my hands. It was a little tricky lying on a masseuse table with my face and eyes covered in gauze and a facial mask while the aesthetician is saying "stick your foot deep into the oil. put it in, put it in" and I couldn't see the darn thing!! The wax was also too hot but all in all when it was done it felt good to feel the smoothness of the skin after winter's dryness. I didn't get a pedicure this time although this is something I usually do get. All the treatments were part of a well priced spa package which also included a half hour massage. I got the lady to concentrate on my lower back and upper neck for the massage. Wow! I did not realize how tight my upper neck was. After the work was done, I felt a bit groggy and tired but in a nice way. I will sleep well tonight and travel tomorrow in a relaxed manner.

It feels nice to treat myself after a long period of self imposed austerity. If any of you are of the frugal mindset, I'd love to know whether you ever treat yourself to mani/pedis, body massage, facials and the like? If so, do you feel guilty doing it or do you consider it as something you do for your well being and health? Are there things you do in between to prolong the benefits of your facials, mani/pedis or hair treatments so that you don't have to go to the salon every month? I'd be interested in your tips and what you've learned for saving the precious hard earned dollars while at the same time looking well.

I will be traveling over the next week or so. If I have time before I leave, I will schedule a post or two to publish in my absence. Failing that I will post from my destination.

Here is a picture of where I'm going.

Stay well.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Moon Light


One night as Dick lay fast asleep,
Into his drowsy eyes
A great still light began to creep
From out the silent skies.
It was the lovely moon's, for when
He raised his dreamy head,
Her surge of silver filled the pane
And streamed across his bed.
So, for a while, each gazed at each-
Dick and the solemn moon-
Till, climbing slowly on her way,
She vanished, and was gone.

By Walter de la Mare

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winner of the Giveaway

The names of the entrants to My First Giveaway were entered into a bowl.

The winner selected at random is

*Drum roll* please........

the Happy Sparrow in Australia.

I will be contacting her for the shipping address and I hope that the little one enjoys Sumi :-)
Thank you everyone for entering the giveaway. I had fun hosting it.

I hope you will take a few moments to read my posts on Haiti and Kenya.
Please don't be shy to leave comments too!

Note: I hope no one minds but I changed the cut off date by one day to have time to send the parcel before I go on my trip.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

These are Kenya's Children

Some of you know that I have a friend in Kericho, Kenya who is a youth pastor. I am always trying to let others know of his work in the hopes that others would come along side him and help him with his ministry to the orphans and widows in his village and further abroad.

Since the January 2008 elections in Kenya there have been many more refugees added to the countryside. My friend and many of his colleagues go out and minister to these internally displaces people as they are enabled. You can read about his last visit to a refugee camp in the post below the photo. If you can help in this work, please let me know and I will give you the information you need. Otherwise you can pray for the people and their needs as well as the ministers and agencies who try to help. I know that many of you are focused on Haiti right now and that is a good thing. But at the same time, let us not forget about the many others who are also homeless and without food.

Hello friends,

I am sitting here and my mind is far away. I have been praying for those in Haiti and thinking about the sights and voices there that I see on the news.

Here in Kenya, I am thinking of those who are in the internally displaced people camps (IDPs). Their tents are torn and leaking. It is sad that we have a cruel world.

I am saddened more with the sight of the children, crying for help, and not knowing the dangers of over exposure to cold and bad weather. The worst thing is that they don't have enough clothes to cover them.

I also met Rachael who gave birth at the camp. We asked her how she got to her child without the services of a matron, and she said, the Lord was on her side. She appealed for help in terms of clothes and warm items to keep the baby warm as they live in the tent.

We need to stand out and pray for the hurting world. It is such a sad time for those in the IDP camps.

God Bless
Pastor Jonah

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gazing in Gastown

In my first giveaway which you can read about and enter here, several of you said you would like to see and know more about the city where I live. Lynne from Canberra said she would like to know what sights I would take her to if she came to visit. So here is my first post on the "touristy sights" of Vancouver. My home by the ocean.

If you were to fly in to Vancouver, stop into port on a cruise ship or stay at one of the downtown hotels, one of the key places you would likely visit is Gastown. I had to go there today as I was looking for a particular kind of Valentine's Day cards for my niece and I haven't been able to find them. Yesterday, I had one more recommendation as to where I might find these cards so off I went to Salmagundi's in Gastown. Unfortunately the shop didn't have the cards I was looking for but it made perfect sense to stop there as it was enroute to the St. Paul's Hospital where my cousin's daughter is having major heart surgery tomorrow morning. I wanted to stop in at the hospital and sit with my relatives for awhile before the big surgery event later this morning.

Here is the entrance into Gastown from the western side of this tourist area. You can see the pavers on the sidewalk, the Gaslight style street lamps and the cobblestone streets. This is one of the oldest parts of our city. It is a beautiful area with character buildings, tourist shops, interesting shopping experiences with both a local and a global flavour and some excellent restaurants. You will also find a wonderful collection of northwest coast art and other native handcrafts, as well as a lot of other uniquely Canadian creations. For example, you will find smoked salmon pate and lox as well as the world famous maple syrup and maple sugar candies.

Gastown was established in 1867, which is also the year of Canada's birth as a nation. This part of town is on the south side of what is called Burrard Inlet (see on the map below). In those days, this area was a wilderness with only a sawmill in the area and the mill owner did not permit any alcohol on the grounds.

One day a man named Jack Deighton came to town. His nickname was "Gassy Jack" because he loved to talk and could spin a lot of tales. He arrived with a barrel of whiskey and he promised the mill workers that he would serve them drinks if they would build him a saloon. It wasn't long before a saloon was built in the area. Thus Gastown was born.

[Click map to enlarge]

Just down the street from where the first photos are taken is a steam clock. It was first built and erected here in 1977 after the area underwent a revitalization. The clock was designed and built by Canadian Raymond Saunders. His clocks are also displayed in several other Canadian cities as well as Otaru, Japan and Indianapolis, Minnesota in the USA. The clock is a great tourist attraction in this part of the city. Visitors come from all around to watch the steam emitting from the clock; much like they flock to Prague's Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square.
Gastown has had a rough and tumble reputation and has gone through many incarnations. In 1886 Gastown was incorporated as the City of Vancouver, named after Captain George Vancouver, a British Explorer. Sadly, just a few months later a brush fire burned out of control and brought the city to ruins leaving all but 2 of it's buildings in ashes. In the 1920s and onward,Gastown prospered but when the Great Depression hit, the area fell on very hard times and the area became a skid row. In the 1960s a group of people saved the area from demolition and obliteration and it was reborn and recognized as a dedicated Heritage Site in the early 1970s.

In the photos below, you will see a small sample of the many tourist shops that sell memorabilia to remind visitors of Canada and their stop in Vancouver.

[A stuffed bear stands guard in the uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police]

I hope you enjoyed your short tour of Gastown and that you will visit again soon.
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wings of Eagles

And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Isaiah 11:12

Did you know that there are Jews in Ethiopia? I did not know that until the first time Israel flew black Ethiopian Jews from Ethiopia to Israel many years ago in approximately 1984 . In that year, Operation Moses airlifted 15,000 Jews who had fled to refugee camps in Sudan to escape starvation and took them to Israel. Then in 1991, Operation Solomon, flew 20,000 Ethiopian Jews from Ethiopia to Israel. There are still a few thousand Jews left in Ethiopia and they all want to return to their biblical homeland.

Today I watched a television fund-raising program with Rabbi Eckstein on this very issue. In the process of watching I learned more of these dear people and their desperate situation in Ethiopia.

As I watched I could not stop sobbing with a deep groaning for these people who for so long have been "lost" in Ethiopia. I literally could not stop even if I wanted to. The tears simply flowed.

The Ethiopian Jews have fled to the northern reaches of Ethiopia to escape persecution and death. In the north they live desperate lives of poverty and disease but they continue to practice their Jewish faith. These people are said to be the descendants of the lost tribe of Dan and though many have been returned to their biblical homeland, many others remain behind in Ethiopia.

I was deeply moved by the scenes of these Jews practicing their faith after generations of exile and their deeply held hope of getting home to Israel. Scenes of rescued Jews, dropping to the tarmac and kissing the ground once they landed was also very moving. The sadness and grief I shared over the heart wrenching goodbye scenes between friends and family members was very real. Not everyone gets to go to Israel from one family at the same time due to the lack of funds.

Many have waited a decade to be able to go to Israel. In that time, untold numbers of people have died due to sickness and disease aided by poverty. Once they say goodbye to their loved ones, they do not know when or if, they will ever see one another again. This kind of knowledge is simply overwhelming. Not just to me but more so to the people who must experience it.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) is working hard to raise funds for the repatriation of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. If you can help another Ethiopian Jew to return to Israel, to their biblical homeland, please do so. You can do so here and when you do, I am sure that God our Father sees you and is well pleased.

I leave you now with a story of one young man's return to his biblical homeland and his experiences in Israel. This excerpt comes from the IFCJ's website.

Naga: Returning from Exile

Naga, 23, came to Israel with his parents from Gondar, Ethiopia. Despite the fact that there were few Jews in Gondar, his parents always stressed the importance of their faith. “My grandfather used to tell us stories about how our people were exiled from the land of our ancestors and that one day we would return,” he says.

In Ethiopia, Naga and his family faced much anti-Semitism. “People called us ‘strangers’ and ‘exiles’, and looked down upon us,” he says. “My father remembers during his childhood that people refused to drink from the same cup as him because he was Jewish.”

Because of this persecution, Naga says that Ethiopia never felt like home. He always dreamed of living in Israel – and, thanks to your support of On Wings of Eagles, that dream came true.

On Wings of Eagles not only funded aliyah (immigration to Israel) for Naga and his parents, it provided them with klitah (resettlement) assistance that helped them become full, productive citizens in their new home. Upon arrival, Naga and his parents were brought to live in an absorption center with other Ethiopian families. There are social activities as well as counselors who teach them how to use modern technology and integrate into Israeli society.

Naga is deeply grateful to The Fellowship’s On Wings of Eagles partners. “Coming back to Israel is something people have worked for their entire lives, and have even died for,“ he says. “I know that your donors are working hard so that every Jewish person can come home, and I am so grateful.”

There are still many Jews in Ethiopia and around the world like Naga who dream of one day coming to their biblical homeland, where they are free to worship as Jews. Please give to On Wings of Eagles today – and help that dream come true!

I Ran out of Bread

I ran out of bread this weekend. Usually I buy whole grain bread but the sales at two of my local shops were all sold out. I was too busy and too tired to try making a loaf so I whipped up a batch of bannock. You can find the recipe here.

I formed the dough into a loaf rather than a flat slab. I also added some Tuscan herbs to the top. If you make it this way, the loaf will not be like a yeast loaf. It will be more crumbly. I just did it this way for variety and I quite liked it. I hope to make Turkish bread soon and will post the recipe and photos when I do.

It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:4

Note: Please stop a moment and enter my giveaway here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Moose Stew

I grew up in the far north where traditionally my people lived on wild game and fowl, as well as made bannock (for bread). We didn't grow up on milk, green vegetables and fruits like many people take for granted today. One of my favourite wild meats is moose meat.  I've also eaten deer meat, beaver, bear, wild rabbits and a wild bird whose name escapes me at present. Mostly though I loved to eat moose meat. Moose steak in particular with boiled potatoes and bannock. My mother could cook moose steaks that were so tasty. She used just shortening and a little salt. I featured bannock in a blog here.

Nowadays so many of the people that hunted and that I knew are no longer alive. Sadly with their passing, the knowledge and skills or interest in hunting has also dramatically decreased in my community.  That basically means I get very little wild meat to eat and when I do it is a real treat.

Moose is a very lean animal and when you cook it you must be careful not to dry it out. The moose is a very large animal. I've posted a picture below (I didn't take this photo and I'm not sure who did) and you can learn more about this beautiful and wild animal here.

You can imagine how blessed I was to be the recent recipient of some wild game just before Christmas. I won a picture in a raffle organized by one of my friends, Rose. I gave Rose some funds to support her fund raising raffle and asked her buy me some tickets for the food basket that contained some wild meat. Instead I won a huge picture! Was I disappointed or what.

Apparently the picture was much coveted by another woman at the church raffle and she was very disappointed that a stranger won the prize she coveted, lol. It turns out she was the woman who donated the wild meat for the food hamper. Unbeknownst to me, Rose approached this woman and told her I might be interested in a swap. Indeed I was if it meant I got to have some wild meat!

Long story short, I got the meat and the other woman got the picture she wanted. I guess she wanted it for a Christmas gift for one of her grandchildren. In the bag of meat there was minced moose (like hamburger or minced beef), a package of moose stew meat and some bear chops. I took the bear chops to mom at Christmas and next time I visit I hope to cook them up.

Yesterday, I got to use the moose stew meat in a simple recipe but it was so delicious.

My Recipe

- about six cups of water to boil
- pieces of moose stew meat (about 1.5 pounds)
- 3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons of vegeta (vegetable seasoning) to taste
- salt to taste
- flour as needed (approx. 1/2 cup) to coat the meat before frying and to thicken the stew
- coconut or other shortening/oil to brown the meat before stewing
- freshly cracked peppercorn for garnish

First chop up the stew meat into small cubes about 1/2 -3/4 inch square; coat with flour and brown in a hot frying pan until nicely browned. Most of you have already made stew but just in case you haven't, make sure you turn the meat so that it doesn't burn and so that the loose flour in the pan doesn't burn.

In a stew pot, boil some water and add the salt. Once boiled put in the chopped veggies (carrot, onion, pototoes and the browned meat). Let the mixture boil and then reduce heat slightly until the vegetables are cooked.

In a small bowl mix, remaining flour with a few tablespoons of water until it is a mixture of medium consistency. You don't want it too thick or too thin. Add the vegeta or vegetable seasoning to it and slowly stir the mixture into the stew mixture. Stir the post constantly so that no lumps of flour form in the broth.

Cook (the now completed stew) for another few minutes. Serve in a bowl and add freshly ground pepper for garnish.


Note: I just learned that vegeta has an ingredient called monosodium glutamate (MSG). Not a good thing for many of us with MSG sensitivities. I'm going to have to find a substitute. I actually have other seasonings like Mrs. Dash.

I know that there are many reports that say MSG is safe, however for those of us with sensitivities, even small amounts can be unsafe or lead to symptoms which we do not need. For example, I find when I eat Chinese food with MSG, I break out in hives under my eyes. Fortunately the MSG in the vegeta seems to be a small amount. The only real side effect I've experienced is some swelling, which is bad enough really, isn't it? So please, if you try this dish with another kind of meat, you might want to consider your seasoning.

Reminder: Don't forget to enter my giveaway here

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My First Giveaway

I've been blogging for less than a year now and in the process I've learned a lot. I have a lot more to learn from the knowledge and talents of other bloggers so I'm hoping to blog and read blogs for a long time to come.

One of the things I've learned about, and participate in with glee, are the giveaways that various bloggers sponsor. I think giveaways are fun and I always try to participate to show bloggers that I am paying attention to what they write. I think it also shows gratitude for what they do to develop reader participation.

The winter Olympics will be here in a few short weeks so I thought it would be fun to giveaway one of the Olympic mascots. There are actually three of them and I like Sumi best so Sumi is part of the giveaway.

My regular readers know I live in Canada and that I am a proud Canadian so I thought it would also be great to provide a few souvenirs of my country. These few gifts will go in a reusable tote bag with the word "Canada" embossed on the front. This is in homage to the many people out there who I know are into the simple life and want to keep our planet free from as many plastic bags as possible.

Here are a few photos to show you what will be in the Canada bag.

[Pens, stickers, souvenirs, luggage tags and Olympic mascot]

In order to participate, please leave a comment and let me know what you would like to learn about Canada or Vancouver. I then hope to feature a blog post on the winning subject in a future post.

The winner will selected at random and be announced on Friday January 28, 2010, (changed to Thursday, January 227, 2010 to allow time for wrapping and posting) and contacted for address information so I can mail your parcel before I leave town on the same weekend. In the meantime, happy blogging. If you have children or grandchildren, be sure to enter as they tend to love these sorts of things though I've tried to include things that adults might also use (luggage tags and pens). If you are from another country, it would be lovely for you to have some souvenirs from Canada. If you are not from another country, please enter anyway. Everyone is welcome! Good luck

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bathroom Ruminations

Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.
A. A. Milne

Another day has come and gone and I'm happy to report that the decluttering and reorganizing project continues and much progress has been made in the bathrooms and in organizing the master bedroom.

The master bathroom does not have enough cupboards and drawers to keep everything nice and neat. In this country you will rarely find adequate closet or bathroom storage. I'm guessing this is the case where you live as well, especially if you live in some of the older buildings in Europe.

Years ago, I purchased a kitchen pantry unit to address this deficiency in bathrooms. Currently the unit is standing in the master bedroom to keep things organized and out of sight. The pantry unit has served me well for a number of years in this way. It is a simple, plain white pantry. I could paint or stencil it but I like in its simplicity in white.

Right now this unit is housing many items. Mainly overflow items from the master bathroom. For example, it contains a basket of items that I need when I travel like a cell phone for use in Europe/Africa. The phones we use in North America do not work in Europe or Africa though I understand this will change within the year. The basket also holds things like extension cords and converters, passport holders, plastic rain gear, small sized containers for carrying shampoo and lotions, etc. Another basket contains small gifts for those occasions when I have to have a gift item ready on short notice. I also keep a few cds on hand for those occasions when I want to listen to some soothing music in the bedroom. Finally, the unit holds some decorating magazines and some books I placed there recently.

I also placed a wing chair in the corner of the room. My plan is to add a lamp and make a cosy reading nook. The wing chair was one of my excellent thrift store finds. It is in perfect condition and only cost $35 (Canadian). The chair was previously languishing in the front room until I found a good spot for it. Here is a photo of it along with my cherished Pendleton blanket.

Now let's go back to the bathroom shall we? Both bathrooms in the apartment have these generic light fixtures above the bathroom vanity as in the photo below. They are great for throwing a lot of light but I really don't like them because they take too many bulbs and are hard to clean.

The master bathroom in the photo above has not had any decorating attention since I moved in. In fact the shower curtain is 23 years old and the hand towel is from the thrift store. I think it needs a change to liven things up a bit. Do you have any suggestions in terms of colour, pattern, solid, etc.?

Here is a photo of the adjacent bedroom to help you make your suggestions. The wall colour is a deep navy. I know some people find it a "cold" or "cool" colour, but I find it restful. The bedroom is a nice place to be in the heat of summer here. In winter months, I simply add flannel sheets, a mattress pad warmer and more bedding as needed. Since it can get rather chilly here in winter with a lot of rain, I have more blankets than I would actually like to have. But most of the blankets have been purchased to last my life time and I will only need to make the odd purchase of bed sheets and pillow cases when required.

If you have decorating suggestions, just know that the bed covers are not always floral in design and the wall colour will likely stay. In summer, the bedding could be a white matelasse coverlet or a large quilt with blue, gray and off white squares. A lot like this one here except the colours are not as vivid. In winter, the bed sometimes wears a wool Pendleton blanket with geometric design (as in the above photo) or a floral quilt from India in brick red, black and off white.

All the bed coverings, except the floral one in the photo, have sentimental value or have been purchased as investment pieces meant to last a lifetime. That means they will likely remain as part of the decor. This also means that I won't have to spend more money on bed covers.

The main bathroom in the photo below is going through the final stages of re-plumbing, as are other areas of the apartment. The light fixture above the vanity will be changed to a brushed nickel light fixture in a more traditional look. It looks a lot like this 4 light vanity fixture here. This fixture can take energy efficient light bulbs. Yeah! I hope to purchase another one like this for the master bathroom. The old fixtures can then be recycled by taking them to the thrift store.

The bathroom tub and floor tiles, towel bar, toilet paper holder and vanity were all replaced in September and new towels purchased in shades of teal blue, gray, and tan. We still need a waffle weave shower curtain which will likely be purchased in a tan colour (I may sew a contrasting colour like teal blue on it to brighten the room and blend with the towels). The previous towels in this bathroom were all about 16 years old so I think they have served us well. The shower curtain which was a green/burgundy/tan floral and the green soap dish, were still in good condition and they have been taken to the thrift shop.

Besides the organizing described above, the master bathroom was given a good cleaning and a lot of extraneous items were tossed or donated to the thrift store. I dropped off two bags at the thrift store today and several last week. I have a few more to deliver there later in the week. Two boxes of computer discs, old appliance warranties and old video tapes in the living room were sorted and eliminated altogether.

I will tackle the final two unpacked boxes in the living room and the other two in the master bedroom later this week. Once the plumbers are gone, the master bedroom closets can really be culled and a home found for the remaining photos and pictures which have not yet been re-hung. At the end of the month, the master bathroom will be re-grouted and re-caulked and some minor updating done to the fixtures. Then I can see about painting, changing the light fixture and adding new linens. So you have a few weeks to let me know if you have any suggestions. I hope to hear from you!

By the way, watch this blog as soon I will be posting about a giveaway. It will be my first one and I think I have just the right thing in mind. I'm excited and will be telling you more soon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Prayer for Haiti

Dear Lord,

I ask you to be with the Haitian people. Many are wounded physically and scarred emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I ask you to heal them today in every way.

I pray for many labourers in the field who would help the needy in Haiti and for many prayer intercessors from afar who would step into the gap to pray.

I ask also for your ministering angels to protect, strengthen, comfort and preserve the sick, the weary and the wounded. I ask for the creative miracles and other miracles of healing for those that need it and cannot get medical attention in time. I pray for protection and safety for the living from any possible outbreak of disease caused by so many dead people. I pray you will help the dead to have a name Lord and not to be "lost" because of mass burials. It is so tragic for their loved ones who may be left behind. I know You do not forget these dear ones Lord no matter who else does.

I thank you so much that you are a loving and healing God and that we can call upon you any time, night or day, and you are always there. You never sleep or slumber. We can be assured that you are there to hear us when we pray.

I want to give you all the praise and glory Abba Father for you have been so good to me. I would like it so much if these desperate people could know some of the joys and hopes and dreams that you have given me. I pray for them to have a hope and future as your word says in the book of Jeremiah. Let your glory be revealed in the Haitian people; our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, our fathers, our grandfathers and grandmothers; for you love them so very much. I pray the world would see how you want to bless these people abundantly because you love them so much.

I pray and I ask all things in the name of your Son Jesus; the matchless name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kitchen Declutter ~ Before & After

Never again clutter your days or nights with so many menial and unimportant things that you have no time to accept a real challenge when it comes along. This applies to play as well as work. A day merely survived is no cause for celebration. You are not here to fritter away your precious hours when you have the ability to accomplish so much by making a slight change in your routine. No more busy work. No more hiding from success. Leave time, leave space, to grow. Now. Now! Not tomorrow!

Og Mandino

Decluttering, downsizing and simplifying. Those words are my mantra these days though I am still a long way off from my goal of implementing these ideas in full. I am part of a Christian Women's Group that is using the month of January to declutter and we are encouraging one another so I feel I am making progress. The Og Mandino quote above is not so much about decluttering the house but decluttering one's life. My feeling is that one needs to declutter and simplify one's surroundings (home, office,private spaces) before one can declutter a life and focus on fully seizing the precious moments in life.

Here is a little project from the weekend that involved cleaning out my kitchen drawers and lower cupboards. It involved purging the "junk" and reorganizing things to make the drawers and cupboards tidier as well as more efficient.

Drawer #1 - Before photo

The cutlery drawer was not organized as such but was cleaned. Now I'm thinking I would like a new cutlery tray. I don't even remember where I got this cutlery tray but it is truly ancient and I don't even like brown. I have a knife block but I find I like to keep my knives in their sharpening holders (the white things on the right). There is also block for knife sharpening at the back of the drawer.

Drawer #2 - After photo

This is drawer # 2 Before photo

This is drawer #2 After photo

I decided it wasn't tidy enough and it looked like it would quickly get disorganized again, especially when my roommate rummages around. To remedy this, I went to purchase some inexpensive plastic baskets to keep things better organized. This is what the drawer looks like now.

In the back (left) are gadgets we don't use that often. On the right, are items we use almost daily. In the fore are the measuring spoons and few gadgets that we use often. After adding the plastic organizer there was no longer room to store the blender but I kept the beaters there.

You might wonder about the blue plastic. It came as a "gift" in the plastic baggie box. It is a reusable plastic cover for bowls. I know that many in the frugal movement would not use plastic and/or disposable wraps, etc. I agree that reducing usage and reliance on disposables is an excellent idea. I do it in other areas of my life. For example, I use re-usable totes for food shopping and other shopping. Where I have to rely on store provided plastic bags, I re-use these rather than toss them as part of my overall "reduce, reuse, recycle" effort. These days I seldom have to use a plastic shopping bag as I usually have my own with me. Once I've simplified my life, I can perhaps make some reusable wrapping products or I can buy some here. At least it is something to think about.

This drawer is a catch all for hammers, screwdrivers and pliers, as well as some bungee cords and various weights of string for packing. We also keep our flashlights here for those power outages that occur from time to time. I do have a small tool box which I keep in a closet as well but it doesn't hold much and it isn't handy for those quick jobs that always need doing around the house which is why I keep the tools in the drawer.

Drawer # 3 Before photo

Drawer # 3 After photo

Here is the final After photo of the same drawer after adding one plastic tray. It might still look a little cluttered but everything is neatly stored in zip-log baggies (like-with-like) to keep them from spilling all over and getting jumbled.

This is what the drawers look like when they are empty. I put the ivy patterned mactac in the drawers when I first purchased the condo. I like the pattern and I also like the ease of wiping the drawers clean with this coating on them.

The bottom kitchen drawer in the Before photo below, is probably for holding pots and pans. I was using it for linens and such. Over time it became a catch all for other kitchen items that didn't fit anywhere. It had become a place where I feared to look.

It is much neater now in the After photo below. I've decided to keep my nicer damask table cloth, napkins and place mats in here. I probably should take them out of the plastic bags and find something more suitable so they can breathe. I'm thinking of trying to make something like this linen keeper (fabric not yet decided). The brown wooden chest contains my collection of better flatware.

A close up of the flatware. For every day use, I have a mismatched assortment for daily use pictured in the first photo in this blog (above). The set was wasn't always mismatched. Somehow though, cutlery pieces just seem to go astray, much like socks disappear when doing the laundry.

A side cupboard in the photo below has undergone several usages. The most recent is storage for the thermos and juice flasks, food wrapping materials (plastic, foil, baggies, wax paper), and big jugs of vinegar for cleaning.

The lower shelf has two plastic trays. I've placed one in the very back where I've put my new dish cloths and tea towels. In the front, I have my apron and another daily use table cloth, as well as the electric beater.

I have two of these side cupboards, pictured in the photo below. One on each side of the kitchen sink. I don't actually like them because they have very small doors and it is hard to reach into the back of the cupboards to clean them or to reach things you need. But I must make use of them as that is what I have. One side of the cupboard is for plastic containers, mixing bowls, and saucepans as well as glass bake ware. Other pots and pans are stored in the stove oven and in the stove drawer. A few larger pots are stored atop the kitchen cabinets.

The cupboard on the other side (pictured below) is used for food storage. The upper food shelf is for canned goods as well as dried items like legumes, beans, etc. The lower shelf (at back) is for baking items (like sugar, coconut, specialty flours) and small baskets of potatoes and onions/garlic. This side of the cupboard will need more organization but for now this clean up will do.

Whew! I think I accomplished a lot. Not only did I clean these shelves and drawers and reorganize them but I had to go out and purchase some new baskets, tablecloth and dish towels too.

I have much more de-cluttering and organizing to do in the apartment over the coming weeks and months and the kitchen is not entirely done yet. But I have made some good progress this month.

Later this week, I will tackle some of the unpacked boxes in the living room. I also hope to begin going through some of the unpacked boxes in my bedroom. Some of you who follow my blog will remember we had a fire in May 2009. We were lodging in a hotel for several months. Now that we have moved in and have a lot of new furniture (replaced by insurance) I have a lot of things I want to eliminate. I was contemplating a major de-clutter project before the fire but after the fire, I didn't have any choice! Now that I am retired I can also get rid of boxes and boxes of files and papers I no longer need or wish to keep.

As we enter into 2010, I find many people are de-cluttering. How about you? What de-cluttering projects do you have underway? If you are like me, clutter makes you feel disorganized and somewhat overwhelmed. Cleaning up the clutter frees up my mind as well as my spirit and makes me feel so good!

Good luck with your de-cluttering.

Tuesday 4 ~ Books

Welcome back to Toni Taddeo's Tuesday 4 . Books are such a big part of many people's lives. Maybe we should talk about that. 1. Do y...