Pears, Anyone?

Just because I love my husband does not mean I have to love pears.

And just because my husband loves pears does not mean that we need to buy a half peck of pears.

And just because we buy a half peck of pears does not mean that I need to use them all up immediately, before they get too ripe.

Oh wait, yes I do!

I just don’t love pears. They’re kind of slimy and a little on the deceitful side. I mean, here’s this pear in the produce section, smiling up at you, “Pick me, pick me!” And you get it home and it’s crunchy and gritty and not at all ripe, which wouldn’t matter anyways because ripe pears are slimy. So different from apples, pears are. Apples put on a happy face and they’re crisp and happy inside as well. When you buy an apple at the store, it is what it is – ripe and ready for munching or cooking.

But along with a half peck of apples for me, we had to pick up some pears as well. So this morning I started off by making apple butter in the crockpot. It turned out fabulous. I only made about a half batch, using about 8-9 apples. And I used just a little over a cup of sugar and adjusted the spices accordingly. Otherwise I followed the directions pretty closely. That extra hour uncovered at the end seems to be the key to allowing the mixture to set up a bit. I did not use anything but a whisk to stir the mixture; it is slightly chunky but will still spread well on my toasted bagel, believe me!

Back to the pears though, the pears I do not love. What does one make with pears? Fresh pears with cheese is okay or I can deal with them in a salad. Olive Garden had a wonderful pear gorgonzola ravioli a few months ago that was to die for. But these dishes would never fly with Pear-boy, to whom the best spaghetti is macaroni noodles covered with tomato sauce right out of the can!

So I decided to follow suit and just try some pear butter, using the same slow cooker principle. I found this recipe which attempts to make it NOT taste like apple butter, which makes sense to me. It called for some unusual ingredients, one being star anise. Huh? I thought it was some exotic fruit but apparently it’s an ingredient used in Chinese cooking, which explains why I couldn’t find it in the produce section. Instead I substituted some dried figs. Before you go scratching your head, here’s my logic: Two popular Christmas songs, We Wish You A Merry Christmas and The Twelve Days of Christmas, reference these fruits – figgy pudding and a partridge in a pear tree! So they must go together, right? And if Tom on the Next Food Network Star can try making a steak out of bacon, then I can put pears and figs together.

As I speak, ingredients are simmering away and hopefully we’ll wake up to some wonderful aroma and equally wonderful pear concoction.

White or White?

Did you know how many shades of white there are? If you’re looking for updates on “the room,” well, join the club – so am I! And it’s white of all things that has me stuck now. Should I paint straight out-of-the-can white, or a tint (still white but with the edge taken off). If I use the tint, will really white shelves on the walls look bad? THIS, people, is why projects take me weeks (or months, but let’s not go there!)

I finally found some unfinished furniture – cubes that I can mount on the wall and some other pieces that will work well, so I’m going with the tint. Magnolia Blossom – doesn’t that sound wonderful? I wonder who comes up with the names for paint colors? I might want in on that opportunity.

In the meantime, we’re planning one of our little jaunts where we just get in the car and go. We have a destination in mind, had to because we’re taking our dog. Wonder what he’s going to think – he is not a great traveler but it’s time he get used to it. He doesn’t get sick; he’s just a little bit neurotic. Not sure he’s going to love being crated in the hotel room while we swim or get dinner but again, he has to get used to it. The majority of the time we plan to spend exploring a new little town, hit a state park and take a driving tour. I finally got a camera that takes really great pictures . . . ones that will be great for manipulating with software, so I’m looking forward to trying it out on this trip.

No room updates but I’ll leave you with a few pictures from my new camera. And with that, I’m signing off of this oh-so-cheesy post!

And It Was All Yellow

Finally! The transformation is starting to be apparent now. The room no longer makes me want to puke when I walk in there. After agonizing way more then necessary over paint color, it’s pretty much in the books now. A little touch up and I can move on. (And no – you’re not seeing things. The walls are intended to be two different shades of yellow.)

I love the colors I picked. The more I read about yellow, being a great color to both absorb and reflect the light, the more I realized how perfect it would be for a place where I hope to create beautiful things. I too want to both absorb and reflect the Light! Although I will mostly be the only one using this room, except for the occasional overnight guest, I want it to be inviting. And I want my life to be inviting as well.

The temptation certainly exists to hole up by myself for days on end, but I know I can’t do that. Part of me struggles with reading other’s poetry and viewing their art, because on the one hand, it makes me feel extremely inadequate. But equally so, I feel like it’s cheating, to expose myself to the creativity of others. As if my own ideas and reflections materialize out of nowhere!

I’m learning that art and creativity are, by nature, a give and take process. We need art and beauty, and we need to regularly expose ourselves to the art of others. Receive it as a gift. Drink it in, let it wash over your soul and don’t worry how it will affect your own ability to create. We shouldn’t feel constrained by the way others do things, as if their way is the only way. But as we receive it, and recognize where it resonates with us, it somehow changes us and we have more to offer others. Life is about both the receiving and the giving, the breathing in and the breathing out.

And as always, when I talk about art and creativity, it goes far beyond just visual images or words. If you cook, how much richer is your experience when you watch the cooking shows, or spend an evening browsing foodie magazines, and then you cook for some friends! Even if your creativity is limited to your parenting efforts right now, isn’t it easier when you share the experience with others via playdates and learning from other moms?

Wow, all that from a can of paint! Must be the paint fumes. I amaze myself sometimes, but then I hate when I do silly things like let paint dry on rollers, forget to cook Mike dinner, etc. so I better move on. Lots of new things in store for Unfinished Work, I think – some to be revealed very soon. In the meantime, I’m now ready to tear out the carpet and hang a few curtain rods. Stay tuned!

(Song lyrics excerpted from Yellow, by Coldplay)

Ten Interesting Paint Factoids

Oh, the stuff that flows through your brain when you’re wielding a paint roller:

  1. Haven’t they come up with any ergonomic painting equipment yet? I’m thinking something that would allow me to enjoy a Diet Coke with Lime in one hand while I watch paint mysteriously and painlessly appearing on the walls!
  2. What’s with the Vs all of a sudden? For years, standard painting instructions were to roll a W on the walls, then fill in that area with the roller. Now it’s a V? Does it matter that I rolled two walls with Ws and two with Vs? Actually, I can think of more words beginning with Vs that that I like, so I  don’t exactly mind. And W is a hard word for kids to pronounce anyways . . . although you probably don’t want your three-year-old painting anyways! Who said change wasn’t hard!
  3. Did you know if you cut a slit in the bottom of a zippered sandwich bag, you can drop your paintbrush in there and call your sister or make yourself some iced tea or check your email, and your paintbrush won’t be all crusty?
  4. You can also slip a roller in a plastic bag if you’re taking a break between coats and it won’t crust over either.
  5. Thank heavens for husbands who don’t mind easy meals like grilled cheese and frozen pizza during painting projects.
  6. I’m equally thankful for whoever came up with the brilliant idea to sell the little jars of paint samples. Ounce for ounce, they’re a huge rip-off, if you’re the kind of person who buys the 32 oz bag of shredded cheese because it works out to .05 cents cheaper per ounce. But when you’re talking about gallons of paint, it works out perfectly, if you’re stricken with a bad case of indecision, as I am.
  7. Did you know that trying to choose the right paint color can land you in bed? Just ask me; that’s where I ended up Monday afternoon. I can laugh about it now, but believe me, it wasn’t pretty.
  8. Did you know yellow is one of the hardest colors to get right? That’s because of the way the light is absorbed and reflected by it. Seriously. Apparently even Martha Stewart’s style editor got it wrong once with a yellow painting project. I know this because I did a ton of internet research on the subject. You may think it was a huge waste of time, but it made me feel a whole lot better and it beat staying in bed all evening!
  9. Did you know that I have two walls completely painted and two walls awaiting the final coat and I’m still.not.sure!
  10. You should know that I’m going to call this room the Happy Room. Not exclamation-point, bouncing-off-the-walls-happy (the padding would obscure the lovely paint color, whatever that ends up being) but just aaahh-sweet kind of happy. Not belly laughs, just satisfied grins. You’ll have to come visit me here sometime.
  11. In the next life, I want to be the person who comes up with all those fabulous names for all the different shades of paint. I wonder if they (the paint names) are all top secret, or if they’re regularly the topic of business lunches or what? Seriously, what an awesome job that must be.

Sorry, but the above post should explain why no pictures accompany this post. And sorry I couldn’t stop at ten but you should know that I despise even numbers! And now back to my regularly scheduled indecision over paint color and prepping for my daily mecca to Home Depot tomorrow morning.

A Hole or Two (or Three)

So finally, I’ve moved past the paneling nightmare. Truly, I hope to never look at another piece of paneling in my life. As I washed the walls, I realized these walls have a few little problems. Nothing beyond repair however. Adrenaline surged and, after a good wipe down with my super vinegar/baking soda/ammonia concoction, the spackling job went pretty easily.

I don’t know, you tell me. Did the guy use a lot of nails to hang his paneling or what?

What, you can’t tell from just one picture? Okay, here’s another.

Mike did say I’m doing a good – no, make that great – job! Thank you very much! He did comment on the amount of joint compound junk around each hole, until I informed him that many of those patches are covering anywhere from two to eight nail holes! Do  you think the guy was that bad at finding studs? Or maybe he just had nightmares about the paneling sprouting legs and running away!

So I’m onto sanding, some caulking (the windows need recaulked as well as the random cracks at the ceiling joint) and then woohoo! PAINT! If anyone’s bored, feel free to give me a call this week.

I spent some time at Borders the other night, perusing home decor books. I’ve pretty much settled on a color scheme – any guesses? Or suggestions? As well, I have some exciting ideas to add a bit of whimsy and fun to the room! Stay tuned for further progress updates!

Previous posts in this series:

Speaking of Green

Connecting the Dots

Getting Unstuck

A Cup of Creativity

Deconstruction

The Junk Man Cometh

The Junk Man Cometh!

Well, yeah me! The paneling is just about gone. I lit a fire under my own self this morning by calling a junkman in the Pennysaver. He promised to show up early this afternoon, so that motivated me to get the scrap wood out of the room, and rip the rest of the paneling off. It’s gone, save for a small piece encasing an electrical outlet which I am forbidden to touch!

It occurred to me, in my pondering moments this morning, that every time I’ve gotten stuck on this project, it’s mostly been due to all the junk piling up around me. Surrounded by stacks of paneling or piles of 2-by-4’s, it’s kind of hard to even see what the next step is, let alone take that next step.

I feel one hundred percent lighter now that the junk man is gone. I’m able to re-envision this creative space and feel the physical freedom to move ahead.

Yet as I do, I’m also aware that there will always be some internal clutter that needs some loving attention.  Sometimes the hardest part of change and building anew in our lives is first getting rid of clutter and junk. The funny thing about junk though, is that we just get so used to it. Soon we find ourselves stepping around things without giving a second thought to the trouble it brings. We hardly realize how it might be hindering us.

This is probably what psychologists refer to as baggage. Baggage sounds a lot like suitcases sitting in a room, long after vacation is past. It also brings to mind all the extra stuff we tend to travel with, that we rarely need. Baggage may be an apt enough analogy, but in reality, anything that clutters up our hearts and minds for long ceases to be baggage when it becomes a fixture in the room.

We can’t call the local junk man to deal with this kind of debris and clutter, but we do know One who is willing to take all this upon him. Perhaps then, the question is really: Are we ready, and willing to part with this stuff? Can we imagine living and moving in the space and freedom offered to us by our Savior?

Deconstruction

As you know if you’ve been following this blog at all, I’m in the midst of a major project right now. I’d love to dub it a remodeling project, or even a room makeover. But right now, it is just one massive, not to mention messy, demolition project – at least for me, who never did have a ton of strength in my arms. I did, however, make some major headway last week when I finally got the blankety-blank closet all ripped out!

Needless to say, this project has afforded me plenty of time for deep thought over the past weeks (okay it’s really been months but who’s counting?)

One understanding I’m coming to is how like life some deconstruction projects can be. When we set about trying to make change in our lives, whether it be longstanding habits or deeply ingrained attitudes and behaviors and (perhaps especially) ways of relating, it’s often a long, hard process. This is usually unacceptable for people accustomed to instant results. Anyways, just some personal observations about change and process:

  1. Change always begins with a thought process.
  2. Change itself is always a process.
  3. There’s as much value in the process as there is in the finished product.
  4. We’re never really done.
  5. The less tangible and visible the results of change, the more difficult it is to be patient with the process.
  6. Often, only part of the process is within our control, and yet we tend to focus our efforts on that which is out of our control.

It has been good for me to force myself to work on some tangible changes (room) while at the same time I’m working on some of those not-so-tangible, inner changes. I’d like to think I’m on the home stretch now but unfortunately, the walls need lots of TLC before they’re ready to paint. And I dread thinking about dealing with all the little staples after I pull the carpeting up! But one step at a time, right? In the meantime, a few pictures . . .

The closet, preconstruction

No more closet and just 3 sheets of paneling remain to be ripped out!

Lots of wood for the burn pile (look out for those nails!)