Granola, Russian teacakes, and nuts!

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Today I decided to start the cookies.  I did what I have done since I was a kid in elementary school; I started with the task that is the least appealing to me.  Therefore, I mixed up the Russian Teacakes, which in and of itself is not unpleasant, but the mess that ensues after the baking where you have to roll the freshly removed, set but not browned at all, teacakes and roll them in powdered sugar while hot is sloppy.  When I think about it, it really isn’t my cup of tea to do that, I don’t like messes.  When the kids were small, I was always amazed at Mary Kay’s willingness to get really messy and cook with the kids.  When I would do it, it was always in a more engineer-planned, step by step preparation that was less artistic in design. Anyone who knows me would get that.  Sometimes, when the kids were small, they would say, “oh boy, here with go with military daddy (mind you, I was never in the military)” when I would be alone with them for the day.  So, I made the cookies and immediately went haywire with my “Honey Don’t List.”

I need to be careful here since Mary Kay seems to catch a glimpse of my blog each day and when she comes home, lately, there have been no surprises for her.  Darn, I so love to mess with her!

Mary Kay and I are the same age and both teachers by profession.  We met in grad school at Ohio University.  Our paths almost didn’t happen as I was not looking to stay at my alma mater for grad school.  I was planning, ironically, to go either to the University of Illinois (where MK did her undergrad) or to Case Western Reserve in Cleveland.  I didn’t hear about my fellowship at the U of I until after I signed up to stay at OU.  Mary Kay came because she didn’t have a teaching job and OU contacted her and offered her an Assistantship.   She came to Ohio sight unseen, having never heard of OU and being quite unhappy to be in the middle of nowhere.  But that is another story.

Teaching jobs were impossible to find and we both sent out over five hundred letters.  We sent them mainly to the Chicago and Ohio area and wherever there were job openings.  As it happens, she got the job in Illinois so off we went right after grad school and a wedding.

Once children were on the way, we decided that the one who didn’t have the job would stay home.  By this time, I had a great job at New Trier High School.  I honestly couldn’t believe it since I almost threw in the towel during my one year as “Hausherr” and substitute teacher.  But it happened.  She stayed with the children for about fourteen years.  We decided that we could make a go of it on one salary (barely!) and that she would be the “college tuition.”  Living off my salary was tough at times, even at the affluent school I taught at, I remember that car we had with the hole in the floor, need I say more? 

As we approached her time to get back on the saddle, she was convinced that it wouldn’t happen, who on earth would want her?  Once again, MK literally fell into one job after the other, first part-time at Deerfield High School (which was perfect) and finally helping out at Lake Forest High School in a job which soon morphed into a full-time German position, something which is unheard of.  Then, she became department chairman and set off to do things she never planned on.  Lucky for them to have her, because she has soothed the souls who were having such a tough time under the previous leadership (if you could call it that) from a quite eccentric individual.

I have really digressed!  Let’s get back to my day!  After putting the house back together after breakfast, I first mixed the granola.  It is an amazing recipe which MK and I got in Maho Bay, on St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. http://www.maho.org/  We had wanted to go to their green, eco-friendly place since early on in our marriage.  They have special “tents” as the call them on the side of a mountain. The tents are joined by walkways that are recycled wood (where possible) and the walkways are connected to steps, all put together to save the setting and ecosystem.  It is in the National Park donated by the Rockefeller Family and since it is less snobby in appeal than some nearby resorts coupled with the fact that there isn’t a major airport on the island, there are fewer tourists.  We have been on their beaches (which are pristine) and seen very few people.  We so loved the breakfast of granola and plain yogurt that we asked for the recipe and got it.  You will find it at the end of this article.

After the granola making (which is a large batch we share with the kids), I made the cookies.  Then, the devil got a hold of me and since I had stockpiled so many nutmeats, I made Cajun pecans and sugared walnuts from a recipe I got in the Chicago Tribune this morning.  I will also admit that since the oven was on, I wanted to take advantage of it! Now at least I have some major things out of the way.  The rest of the cookies I find to be less daunting. 

So, here I am in my dining room, about to have some tea.  I am looking into my clean kitchen, the big pans having been put in the oven to dry off.  The Christmas tree is sitting in the back yard, visible to my eye from where I am and I am wondering…

Should I attack the Christmas dishes?  Make the switch from the buffet cabinet up into the glassed in portion?  My question to myself is WWMKD?  What would Mary Kay do?

Maho Bay Granola

1 box of Oatmeal (42 oz. container)

2 cups chopped walnuts

2 cups chopped pecans

2 cups almonds

2 cups shredded coconut

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 pinch nutmeg

 

LIQUID INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups peanut oil

1 ¼ cup honey

1 tablespoon vanilla

Combine the three above liquid ingredients in a saucepan on low heat.  Stir until honey dissolves.  Then add the above dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is moistened.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 275° oven until it is light brown in color.  Seems to take at least an hour.

Note:  I almost always forget to add the nutmeg!  It tastes great without!  I have also doubled the amount of nuts from what the Maho Bay people gave me.

Option:  1 to 2 cups craisins added after it cools

Cajun pecans

Lightly toast 2 cups pecan halves

Stir once during 5 minutes in 350 degree oven

Remove from oven, allow to cool, reduce oven to 325 degrees

In large bowl: 1T Worcestershire sauce, 2t coarse salt, 3/4t each: ground cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, 1/2 – 1t hot red pepper sauce

Toss to coat

Bake 15 minutes

Loosen nuts with spatula, let cool

2 cups

Classic Spiced and Sugared Nuts

Oven at 225 degrees

Beat 1 egg white with 1t water in medium bowl to soft peaks

Put 1lb. Pecan or walnut halves in a large bowl and fold in beaten egg white

Mix together 1/2C sugar and 1/2t cinnamon and toss with egg coated nuts

Spread on non-stick cookie sheet

Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes

Cool

4 cups

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Cleaning that dirylite!

I mentioned the dirilyte in a previous post as being one of the many tasks this “Hausherr” had come up with for himself before the arrival of the Christmas holidays.  Originally I had set the Thanksgiving date as the goal for its cleaning.   I didn’t manage to pull that off.  Last week, I did about half of the polishing, today I completed it. 

The job of cleaning this dirylite was tough as I had purchased about half of the current set on e-bay.  The pieces I bought on e-bay were in serious need of cleaning as they were very tarnished.  I find that it doesn’t tarnish as badly or as fast as silver or silver plate but if it is allowed to tarnish, it is tough.  I am at the point where each time it has gotten easier.  I am sure the next time will require very little elbow grease.

The original set was bought by my paternal step-grandmother for my parents as a wedding present.  My family was very blue collar and my parents  were the first generation of American born.  I have not inherited a lot of beautiful pieces of this and that because there weren’t any to inherit, but I did inherit the dirylite when we moved my mom out of her house and I cherish it.  It is very unusual and very Art Deco in look.  The pattern we have, called Empress, is quite plain, something I truly appreciate.

Here is a quick explanation of the silverware and its history that used to be posted on the company’s web site found on this site: http://www.finishing.com/103/66-2.shtml
Dirilyte, as it is known today, was originally called Dirigold. The Dirilyte metal was originally developed by Carl Molin, a Swedish metallurgist, in 1914. While presenting his Dirigold items at the New York World Fair, Molin experienced such tremendous acceptance that he decided to return to Sweden to earnestly manufacture and develop the Dirigold line.

After weeks of planning and experimentation, the company started production in 1919. It was at this time that Mr. Molin was joined by Oscar Von Malmborg and the Dirigold Company was formed. At the conclusion of the Golhenburg Exposition in 1923, during which a large quantity of Dirigold was sold, the young company was approached by Swedish-Americans who proposed that the company move to America.

In 1924, Mr. Von Malmborg moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota and formed a selling company, while Mr. Molin stayed in Orebor, Sweden and continued manufacturing the golden-hued tableware. In 1926, the decision was made to manufacture the Dirigold product in America.

1935 saw the Federal Trade Commission bring suit against the company, charging that the “Dirigold” name was misleading to the public, as there was no gold in the product. As a result, the company was forced to change its corporate and product name. The company was renamed The Dirilyte Company of America, and the product was called Dirilyte.

Dirilyte is a handcrafted item with the warmth and beauty only hand work can achieve. The pieces are individually finished by skilled craftsmen with years of experience.

Dirilyte metal is a very hard and durable bronze alloy, much harder than sterling silver. Its rich, warm golden color extends all the way through each piece. Dirilyte flatware, holloware, and awards are solid. There is no plating used. Production of flatware and holloware stopped in 1986.

Alfred M. Baggett
– Memphis, Tennessee

Traditions are oh so important in our family and this silverware is part of that scenario.

A day in the life of Samantha

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Today Samantha came over later than usual; her mom brought her, which was also unusual.  Laura had to go to a funeral of the mother of a colleague and took the opportunity to get some time with Samantha before going to it. 

I hit the gym beforehand hoping to grab whatever sustenance I could from working out since Samantha could tame a lion and I am just a simple Hausherr.

About 9:00 she arrived, full of energy and dressed to the hilt in the outfit she wanted (she is under two and rather precocious and I don’t think I am biased, LOL!).  We managed to divert her attention a bit and immediately went into the family room.  Mom managed a quiet getaway!  I thought she was going to ask to watch Happy Feet as she usually does, and true to form, she did.

We watched it for a short time, I warned her that I would be turning it off soon and the real play began!  First she grabbed her dolly out of the cradle and set to walking around with it, wrapping it, unwrapping it.  Excuse me for speaking in neutral terms but despite pleas from Grandma for a name, Samantha has resisted naming the dolly, for the moment.

The “Honey Don’t List was looming in my head and I decided to use it to have some fun.  Ripped off the cushions of the “This End Up” furniture (anyone remember that store with the furniture built to defy my boys?) and threw them on the floor.  I polished the furniture while Samantha located the Brio Train.  I interrupted my work every so often to make sure the Brio train was properly set up (this was at Samantha’s request).  Started to make a fort with a blanket over it, but that malfunctioned.  Needless to say, Samantha didn’t care at all.  So I put them down all together, threw some pillows on them and then one of the many blankets that we store in the family room for cuddling up nice and cozy while there.  The photos of the play say it all!

Samantha soon got hungry (she likes to graze) and ate a ton of food.  She asked for more fresh raspberries (she has a generic name for all berries, “dobbies”), so I brought some down with some fresh blueberries as well.  She had already eaten some cheese, a bit of cracker and located the juice boxes of Apple Juice in the laundry room cabinet.  This time she wasn’t disappointed as last Friday she was on an apple juice kick that depleted our pantry.

By this time, we had already tried the potty once (she is asking for it and been successful a few times (she is just over 20 months) and been unsuccessful.  Nobody is pushing this, we are all aware that at sixteen there isn’t a prayer she won’t be potty trained.   A little later she wasn’t smelling too fresh so Papi took her upstairs and cleaned her up.

At this point, she needed to see the “magic box” Mary Kay put under the bed (at Laura’s suggestion) for her full of trinkets and doodads that are just for her play.  That took another twenty minutes and then she asked to go on our bed and because she has this tradition with her grandmother, watch TV.  I had recorded “Hotel for Dogs” on the DVR so we watched about 15 minutes of it and enjoyed our quiet time. 

After that, she wanted milk and down she went for a nap.  Papi went furiously around the house making up for the lost time and putting most everything back in order.  Our rule for cleaning up a room before moving to another had been successfully pre-empted by a dirty diaper!

By the way, I have realized that having three boys that I never learned to do hair!  You may have noticed that!

Wow, am I tired!

Continuing activities of a Hausherr

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It is barely past 7:00 am and I have been up for over an hour.  Originally, during my pretirement, I was able to sleep in a bit after Mary Kay got up to go to work; the alarm goes off somewhere around 5:30 am or so.  When I was teaching, I would always get up that early, get into school quickly and get some work done before students were milling around and the colleagues and administrators were after me for information about this or about that, or just for counsel.  I would like to sleep in but my body/mind don’t buy in to that idea!

Now the minute Mary Kay’s alarm goes off it is as if I have been struck by a bolt of lightning.  She can hit the snooze feature more than once for herself but my adrenalin is already surging and it is with difficulty that I remain in bed.  Once up, I do my daily pushups and do my utmost to make myself ready for the day by doing my “toilette” before heading downstairs.

I start the coffee (which I almost always set up the day before) by plugging in the machine and hitting the start button.  I am trying to save on electricity and my understanding is that coffee machines are notorious electricity sponges.  I set up breakfast and such, sometimes emptying the dishwasher, setting the table, etc.  I threw the hot coffee grounds on the rosebush out front today, just cannot manage to throw them out, have to recycle them!  As an aside, we have started doing a better job of not wasting coffee, having bought a very good German thermos type carafe which will keep the coffee hot all day.  We usually have a cup at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.  At night we will sometimes ‘zap it’ for a moment in the microwave before taking some milk we have warmed up in the microwave and frothed with  a Bamix hand blender.  It is like having an amazing café au lait!

Today was a little easier as the dishwasher was empty, although it didn’t drain completely yesterday after a cycle so I set it on a quick cycle to see if I can “right” the problem.

I “hotwired” a hotel for the weekend in Madison, Wisconsin for an overnight getaway.  Life has been traumatic in the Koerner household, there is always something and I thought that since we had to wend our way north for a funeral on Saturday that we could continue going north and visit a Stickley furniture location in Madison which will have a special showing of our favorite “Arts and Crafts” movement pottery and such. 

Last night was a bit nerve wracking as I received a text from my wonderful, soon to be daughter-in-law at 8:30 pm.  She hadn’t heard from our son, Richie.  He was in the throes (as was I earlier in the day) of cleaning out the warehouse, the boys’ business is evolving and the main brickscaping portion has fallen prey to the recession, so the warehouse is too much of an expense. He turned up at our house victorious, a bit later, in having totally removed everything from the warehouse (my garage is less a victim of the overflow than I expected, just a snow plow from our other son, Christian, and some extra wood). His new phone is a battery hog and Emily hadn’t heard from him for that reason.  I also heard from Mikey, our youngest in California, to say that he shall be temporarily living in his warehouse.  That reeks of “strange lifestyle” but Mikey assures us it is very temporary.  His impending divorce and new business have been taking a bit of a toll on his overall life.  Happily we shall see him mid December, which is a change from the Thanksgiving visit to us that he canceled at the last minute and for which I had to redo his flight arrangements.

I, strangely enough, was bothered by all of the happenings last night.  Mary Kay is more often the visual fretter.  I am a fretter by nature but have done my utmost to keep it under control.  With the boys, I am totally convinced that all will be well with them, so their lives usually don’t worry me, but for some reason, perhaps after being at the warehouse in Waukegan yesterday to help clean up, I was less than calm about things.  Luckily, all is well.

I am putting off finishing my morning clean up by writing!  Today is Wednesday, and according to my plan, this is plant watering day and Grandfather clock winding day.  Will do that, finish cleaning up, set up the coffee for tomorrow and then off into the crawlspace to get some more Christmas decorations to get ready for the holidays.  I am doing this more in stages than I usually do since I have the luxury of not having a full time job at the moment.  I was thinking of going up on the roof, something I didn’t think I would have to do with the relatively new LED Christmas lighting I had purchased, but for some reason I have two strands that are misbehaving and are not totally lit.  They aren’t completely visible as they are on the side of the house, so I don’t really need to correct the situation, but being the perfectionist I am…

I have the family dirylite set to clean.  Dirilyte is a quite interesting metal for cutlery, it looks like brass, has a Swedish origin, and is rumored to have gold in it.  The bad part about it is that it needs to be polished.  As a metal, it doesn’t take a lot of polishing, it does tarnish, but a few years ago I went to e-bay to purchase more settings since we generally have a large amount of people around the Koerner table.  The settings I purchased were at a great price but very much in need of cleaning.  I did my best but frankly they need some more work.  I have that on my list of things to do before Christmas.

Decorating the house will be in the dining L and living room.  Since I am on my own today, that should be easy to accomplish, I won’t have to worry about my granddaughter as I do it.  She will be amazed on Friday, when she is here.  She was already blown away by the ceramic Christmas tree and the stained glass on the kitchen window.  At about twenty months of life, those things are mind boggling.

I might manage to hang pictures in the guest/baby room, if I can, that is also on my list.  I am putting up Alphabet embroidery done for my eldest son and some Disney Paint by numbers that my father did well over sixty years ago.  Despite the idea of paint by number being hideous, they are, in fact, quite beautiful and great for a children’s room.  I think, however, that the idea of having something from my father exposed on a wall is more the reason I am doing it.

Later in the day I will go to the gym, get in some exercise, then take a shower and head to my tutoring situation (I currently tutor two students in French).  This is always rewarding as they need a jump start in terms of motivation and preparation so that the language acquisition is easier. 

I was also thinking about giving myself a haircut.  That whole idea sounds hysterically funny to me, I envision everyone thinking I must look really odd.  The fact is that with the special attachments it is quite easy to self-buzz, if I can say that.  Being well on the road to baldness makes it easier anyway, having little on the top!  Funny thing about cutting hair is that I remember when I was younger and the money in the coffers from a teaching salary meant that I had a lot of DIY activities and also the job of cutting the boys’ hair.  I also remember looking forward to the day when I wouldn’t have to do that.  The irony is I still generally cut my oldest son’s hair anyway, we often trade cuts.  Again, with the attachments it is very easy to trim hair.

I thought I had little to do today, writing this down makes me wonder about my ability to evaluate situations! 

I will touch base later to add to this, don’t really want to get to work, but…

I got the pictures hung.  The hassle there was that one of them no longer had the necessary hardware on the back so I had to go to the garage to redo it.  It is really cold out there, under 32 degrees F.  While out there I decided to check on the pond warmer and glad I did, it is not working.  I immediately put a hole in the ice so that my koi don’t visit their maker.  Pond gases forming under the ice and not being released will kill the fish!  I know, it happened before.  Later today, off to pick up another pond warmer!  It is lightly snowing and the snow is beginning to stick.

Just got a call from Richie, he needs to have me pick him up so he can use his pickup truck which, in all of the moving logistics of yesterday, ended up in my driveway.  Add that to the tasks!

Picked him up, brought him back to the house.  Then headed out to the store to get a new pond warmer.  $100 later, I have changed out the old one, which was steaming when I pulled it out, and put in the new one.  The new one promises to save me $30 a month on electrical usage.  That we shall see about!

It is almost lunchtime and I still haven’t decorated.  My ability to foresee what I can accomplish is obviously compromised. 

I just realized that my wife, who now reads my blog, can tell ahead of time when my “Honey Don’t List” is being accessed.  Oops!

1:30 pm.  I pretty much worked through lunch.  The house is now decorated.  We don’t have a tree yet and we always put it up late and then keep it up through New Year’s Day and slightly beyond.  Everything is now ready for the tree, which makes the actual putting up of the tree less of a hassle.

Several years ago we bought a tree stand that removed our standard Christmas holiday fight as we struggled to get the tree into the stand, righted, and firmly ensconced so as not to fall.  This always caused great stress which led straight into a fight.  Our new stand is a brilliant invention with a set of four supports that stabilize the tree and with connections to the trunk that can go around wayward branches.  Sheer genius!

Now it remains to put the boxes back in the crawlspace and make the house look orderly.  I need to look for the tree Christmas lights, I found some but it sure looks like we are missing some.  We have gone total LED outside and now inside and that makes me very happy in terms of the cost, but more importantly that we worry less about the lights overheating and such.

Next step,  going underground!  Into the crawspace!

Found a few more things to do, like pull out the pine cone wreath I made years ago with pinecones from the neighbor’s yard?  That year, tight financial years, I made many smaller versions of the one I hung today.  Every important family member had one.  Some were appreciated, some less so.  I attached them to a wire wreath hanger with wire.  I washed them (which forced them to close up and scared me into thinking I had ruined them, but as they dry, the open up) and then sprayed them with a nice satiny/glossy clear lacquer.  Simple but beautiful.

2:35: I am going to read the morning paper and check the mail.

Plan to be at the gym by at least 4:00 pm so I can exercise, shower, then head to Kenilworth and tutor.  It has been a long day, but Hausherr’s days usually are!

Painting as meditation

the finished product!

 

I assume that I am like everyone else in the world.  When I am faced with some sort of consistent activity or lack of activity, my mind tends to go into a meditation mode.  I am thinking, focused on what I am doing, but yet I am in what feels to me like a “zen” like mode.

This occurs to me when I drive long distances, swim laps in the pool, and even when I paint.  The other day, I went to my “Honey Don’t” list and decided to freshen up the room where Samantha naps when she is at our house.  I have to say that I just wasn’t happy with having her in there, in that the room was less than hospitable and the carpeting was annoying me.  I had tried to spot clean it but the years of wear and tear by the boys had pretty much killed it.  The thought occurred to me as well that perhaps that bedroom was the one where we had decided to have the wood floors refinished, then realized that perhaps with young boys, carpeting would be a better option.  I guess the carpeting made me look at the walls and realize that the combination was such that RJK had just received a call to action.

So, first I painted the room.  I checked the floor by pulling up a corner of the carpeting in the closet, although that wasn’t the best place to do so.  The floor looked good.  I then went in the main room and did the same and the floor looked really good.  One less thing to attend to as I didn’t need to do the drop cloth routine, what a treat!  I would just leave the carpet as my drop cloth.

I thought I would take an easy route and chose the same Ralph Lauren paint we had originally used.  We found out that Home Depot didn’t carry Ralph Lauren anymore although we soon found out that was not exactly the case.  We ordered it online, something I have never done with paint.  Normally, I use nothing but the best paint, Benjamin Moore at this point of my research, but this paint gives the impression of River Rock, which is what it is called.  I mention easy route since I figured I could put one coat on and be done.  I should know better, since this never happens!  I also always fall victim to naively thinking that something might move along quickly without incident.  Truth be told, two coats later (and another gallon purchase from Home Depot which does carry this “variety” of Ralph Lauren paint), it still looks like it might need another coat.  I didn’t do my usual thing by adding another coat since it is supposed to look rock-like with its special sandy finish.  I am thinking as well that this paint is a great reminder of the boys and all of their outdoor activities.

Being the French literature major, I have to mention Proust in my work on the walls.  In A la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past), Proust talks about the strange occurrence when his mind slipped into thinking of past memories as he ate Madeleines (French lemon molded cookies) and drank tea.  I, in a decidedly more mundane existence, had this happen to me while painting and meditating. 

This room was a major milestone as it is the last boy’s bedroom to be redone from its former self.  My mind wandered while working to all of the things the boys had done.  Remembering, for example, the experience of the “Dr. Pepper” bar advertising light my oldest had purchased, placed upon the bedroom walls, and left for his younger brother.  Pre-painting, I removed the extras from the walls and repaired the holes that were left.  I was amazed at the fact that several wall hangings were not level.  That surprised me as they have already surpassed me in their ability to do household chores of that nature.  That reminded me of their passing into adulthood.  I noticed a burn in the carpeting, wondering what exactly was the story that went along with its existence.  There are times in a parent’s life when he/she might not want to even know some things.  As I was perusing the interior of the closet I removed some clothing not yet taken by the boys.  I found a special wooden cutting board in the shape of a fish that is for scaling and filleting fish.  It made me thing of numerous forays to northern Wisconsin, our family’s special vacation location.  We have spent many a summer there unwinding from the hectic life of the north shore of Chicago.

Time passes and torches are passed from one generation to the other.  Christian’s child now naps in the room that he and one of his brothers used while growing up.  The completion of the room rehab is significant in the evolution of this room. At one point during my painting/meditation, tears actually welled up in my eyes and I was almost embarrassed at the effect the room was having on me.  I didn’t even tell anyone about this.

Strangely, the family recall was not the only recall I had.   I also thought back to my wonderful career and some of the wonderful people I had worked with and I have no idea why the painting of this room caused that.  I am guessing I thought of Adrienne, a most cherished colleague/friend of mine, because of her involvement in my sons’ lives.  All of this made me think of the wonderful things that have happened to me, I who had been genetically pre-disposed to viewing the glass half empty by my mom, was able to think instead of the blessings bestowed instead.

I view the painting of the room, as painful as activities like this sometimes are, as catharsis.  I am also very aware that this blog has become catharsis as well, however much less painful than the painting of the room can be.

I mentioned earlier that my impetus to the painting was my granddaughter, Samantha.  Previous to her sleeping in that room, I was not as inspired to change its status.  I have a great inner desire to do for others, and I have often wondered as to why I need that.  I wonder if it is because I need approval or need to be noticed.  That wouldn’t surprise me as my early life leads me to believe that that might be my motivation.  Perhaps someday it will be clear to me.  Whatever my motivation, I needed to provide for Samantha in a way that she deserves.

Two coats of paint later and the Koerners headed off to a wedding in downtown Chicago of a close family friend.  Crazy me, returns home on Sunday and decides since Monday is garbage day, that perhaps the carpeting should come off.  So up I headed with a good old box cutting device and started ripping up the carpeting and then removing the tacks and carpeting strips.  Mary Kay pitched in and we managed to get it all out.  Luckily, the floor beneath was in a decidedly good condition except for the areas where the foam padding had decided to attach itself to the wood flooring.

Painting was Thursday and Friday (one day per coat), Sunday for the carpet removal, and Monday I finished removing the remainder of the tacks and then did some sanding of woodwork, cleaning, and then painted all of the woodwork in the room.  I also put felt padding on the bottom of all of the furniture to protect the floor.

Tuesday was final cleanup and polishing of the bedroom set, touching up the walls and woodwork, and a final cleaning of the floor.  The cabinet, filled before with the vintage model cars and curious curios of adolescent boys now relegated to a plastic bin in the crawlspace, is now filled with my Eiffel Tower collection, German smokers (wooden figures that utilize incense which comes out of the pipes the characters are “smoking”), lead crystal animals, Hungarian and Italian objects, and the like.

The room is now set for Samantha.  It is my last major project of the season.  That feels good.  As I put some of the wall and woodwork paint in mason jelly jars for future touch up, I closed them and put away the memories, at least for the time being, of childhoods now gone, as another one is in full bloom.  As my youngest would say, “Life is Good!”

The Carpeted Crawlspace

Ever have one of those days where you know you have something to do and you know you will do a great job at it once you start, but you just cannot get to that first step?

I am about to head into the crawlspace, which along with my garage, has been a bit of the bane of my existence. As an adult with my own home, I have never had a basement. That, in fact, might be a good thing. Basements in the Chicago area flood. I had never heard of sump pumps until moving to the Chicago area. As it turns out, I have had three houses in the Chicago area and all three have had crawlspaces, no basement, and no sump pumps. Fingers crossed here! LOL!

In any case, I am digressing. Even procrastinating here, because once I have posted this, I am headed into the dark of my crawlspace. I mentioned no basement because the crawlspace IS my basement or at least serves as such. I have a deluxe crawlspace with carpeting over the concrete portion and numerous layers of tarps on the other. Luckily, it is pretty dry. I had mentioned bane of my existence because I have three sons who have mentally tortured me in my garage and crawlspace. I am an organization freak, as I have mentioned and the boys somehow manage to get into my areas and, well, somehow in looking for things manage to make work for me to undo. I thought since they are all in their mid twenties to just over thirty, that this was no longer an issue. However, a recent camping trip has shown me that sons can still enter my private areas and wreak havoc! They have done this far more often in my garage, which I have somewhat reclaimed. Somewhat in that the business the two older boys were in often took over, removed tools and such, and filled up spaces. In recent days, I finally got that under organizational control with the Father’s Day gift of sturdy wooden shelving (that arrived in the dead of winter after Father’s Day when it was much too cold for me to work on). The dissolution of the business tells me that the Huns are about to come marauding through and my garage may well be a receptacle for all sorts of equipment that won’t fit anywhere else. Sorry, off the real subject of the crawlspace. You can easily figure out that I don’t want to start my attack!

I have been working on the crawlspace for weeks now, taking a day off here and there. I have re-organized things, seen what we have down there, thrown out numerous things, removed tons of cardboard receptacles that I replaced with plastic, and done somewhat of an inventory. I think I may be on just about my last day in there for a bit. I have finally reached the far corner of the crawlspace and I shall close off the vents for the winter. I still have to deal with papers from teaching that I have not been able to part with since my retirement, not sure if that will happen today. I may take a small vac down there, for the most part it is pretty clean, some dust on the tarps, but not too bad.

The big issue I have with the crawlspace is crawling in very low quarters and having to drag heavy boxes that (if they haven’t been replaced by the petroleum product variety) are falling apart! I hit my head on a girder or 2×4 when I am not as careful as I should be. It is also a real hassle as I drag things through the small opening and then push them out. Many times, I have a devil of a time pushing them out to find enough room to be able to extricate my late fifties body from my prison! Usually, I am doing this myself; it is usually too hard to plan to have someone there. It then is a job to drag all of the stuff upstairs and then out the door. It is a really complicated program when I go “underground!”

In the crawlspace are found things like our Christmas decorations (and Christmas is a big deal in the Koerner household) and other seasonal things. CDs are found here (as backups) and extra sets of dishes and pots and pans that I had always hoped to use in a vacation home (I think that is nothing more than a lost dream). Two of my three sons still have boxes upon boxes (mainly the “Sterlite” variety or “Rubbermaid” as one of my sons still calls them) down there which need their own reorganization, but that is not my issue for the moment.

Okay, enough, I am going into the dungeon and hopefully finish today so I can find another “Honey Don’t” item to attack before my wife finds out!