Prioritizing

Things around here are always prioritized…into steps and phases.

Rush to get this house liveable one year ago. Check.

Rush to get yard cleaned up a bit after we move in. Check

Rush to get pine trees cut down before major storm comes through and the leaning ones crash into our “new” house. Check.

Repair this. Fix this. Rig this. Figure out why that is leaking. Check. Check. Check.

Hunter and I are project people. We are. But, sometimes I wonder if this house that I grew up in (and now live in) is trying to drive us to madness.

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Our living room about one year, 4 months ago. Just before we moved in.

There’s always something to do, to fix, to make better. It was in disrepair for so long. We all just ignored it. But when we needed a place to live, it was our saving grace. We poured the pennies we had into making it a place we could live, safely, with less stress and give ourselves time to recover from what had been a terrible few years financially, emotionally, and physically. We are total DIYers on this. The only thing we hired out was having a friend who is an electrician come swap out some outlet for a different one for the dryer and to check all the outlets and such. Hunter has amazed me with his ability to figure things out and put this house back together. Because, yall, at one point, the kitchen had a giant hole in the floor and he was standing in the crawl space and the kitchen at the same time putting it all back together. He’s an amazing hard worker and has rebuilt our home into a safe place to live.

But after we got moved in and settled, well, we rested. We just lived here. We let everything stay as it was unless we absolutely had to do it. We just needed to rest.  t took a year and a half of hard work (mostly on Hunter’s part as I worked full time and was pregnant for much of the time) to get the house back to a liveable status before we moved in. We were home improvement burn-outs.

For about six months now, we’ve slowly been finishing things out though. Which is a nice, refreshing change.  Some successes:

We finished baseboards in the kitchen and some finish trim around the upper cabinets. Oh and that stuff that goes under the cabinet to finish it? Toe kick stuff? Floor trim? Not sure what it’s called. We still need quarter round but oh, it looks better.

We put flooring in our closet (it was sub-floor before that…the other closets still are). Dust is SO much less.

I bought a bamboo blind for our bedroom window (just a sheer curtain before that). It will definitely help in the summer with cooling.

I started touching up ceilings (crappy painters, we are). I hate ceilings. And popcorn ceilings. And ceilings.

We bought a built in dishwasher. STOP THE WORLD.  I’ve used a portable for 10 years. This is like a whole new world. I love, love, love it. The not dragging a dishwasher over because the wheels don’t roll right. The not having to move it back in the morning. The dishes that have to be washed basically before the dishwasher because the water pressure just isn’t enough….this dishwasher is glorious.

I slipcovered our chair. Ugh. We won’t talk about how nasty it looks even though we had it cleaned prior to Rhett coming. Never buy a fabric couch or chair. Just buy leather. Seriously. It’s on my “dream list.”

So it is all coming together. Slowly but surely. Right now, we have a few projects going on:

Hunter is building a shop. He’s been using a container (one of those shipping containers…like this). We were going to take on a bit of debt and buy a building but he decided he could built on to what we have and make it what he wanted for less money. I’ll try to get some pictures this week. It’s a slow and steady project.

I’m slipcovering the couch. Nothing fancy. Just drop cloths for the fabric. And there won’t be a tutorial because I am winging it. It’s not perfect. Pin. Cut. Pin. Trim. Sew. Fit it. Add next pieces. repeat. I have the cushions left to do.

We still don’t have doors on our upper kitchen cabinets but I am working on them. I polyed some this weekend and stained others. Of course, the ones I stained look darker so…I may have a redo there. I am supposed to work on the remaining ones on Wednesday but it’s supposed to rain so we’ll see. And I need to decide if I want to leave the hardware as is or spray paint it. Some is in pretty bad shape.

Once we have some progress on the shop, Hunter is going to try to get the coop built for me. It too won’t be fancy and will be done as cheaply as possible. One thing we’ve learned these past few years is to do with what we have, when we can. Financial ruin can do that to you. 🙂

We also have a porch to screen. I’m supposed to be pulling old staples out.  Supposed to be. Screening won’t take long when we have time. And it’ll make the outside look better.

There’s also a back deck to be built. We have back door and a 3 foot drop. Worse case scenario, a set of stairs but we’re hoping for a small deck.

We have landscaping that we want to do and a row of screening trees to install. Living in town again is new and different. Living in the small town where you grew up where everyone knows your business and your family mostly all lives on the same street…its….challenging. We’re working on it.

There’s a lot more we want to do like repair damaged siding, treat the beetle issue we have going in the crawl space, install a heating and cooling system (because right now, we use a wood stove mostly, a propane stove in the dining room as a supplement and 3 space heaters in bedrooms as needed, ugly window units in the summer), paint the house that hasn’t been painted in 34 years, replace the hollowed out porch rails (thank you carpenter bees), redo  the sloped sidewalk, put in more gravel in both drives….but its all “plans.” We’ve learned that plans go by the wayside and that we just have to roll with the punches. And the funding. We prioritize, shift our priorities, balance things out, change our minds, and end up using the money somewhere else for something more important. But in the end, its the right place and a good decision.

But progress is a beautiful thing and we’re having a good time watching it all come together into something that is just right for our family.

The Story Behind the Epic Bad Day

My kitchen stove and flour bin after an epic bad day.

I had a pretty scary accident recently in my home.

I nearly burned our house down. And I’m not exaggerating. That’s my less-than-one-year-old stove in that picture up there, my flour bin and my counter tops covered with residue from the fire and fire extinguisher.

Let’s see if I can lay it all out in a way that makes sense.

I was teleworking that day. Early that morning, I’d thrown some bread dough together in my stand mixer and set it aside to rise. Honestly, I forgot about it until lunch. At lunch, I saw it spilling out of my mixer bowl and quickly pulled down my rather large plastic flour bin so I could get it into a loaf pan to rise another hour.

I hadn’t used the stove for any cooking that day. I had an empty pot from supper sitting on the back right eye that I’d boiled pasta in. I scooped out some flour and sprinkled it on the top of the dough and on my hands and then popped the top back on and set it on top of that empty pot. Then I got to work shaping the loaf and getting it on to rise again before baking it off.

At some point, I guess I bumped the plastic flour bin and it fell back against the back of the stove.It hit the button that controls the eye and turned it on without my knowing it. Since it was such a large bin, I didn’t see the red light come on the back part of the stove.

I covered the dough and walked to the back of the house to do a few other things while I was on my lunch break. I guess it was about 5 minutes or so when I started to smell something. My first thought was that I’d lit a candle and was smelling it. But I didn’t remember lighting a candle so I got up and went back to the front of the house.

When I hit the end of the hallway, I saw the flames. They were probably two feet high, nearly to the stove hood. After a few choice words, I ran closer and knew I couldn’t turn the stove off.  I reached under the sink and grabbed one of the two fire extinguishers we had. The one we had used before, didn’t work. Thank goodness we’d had the sense of mind to buy another one after the grill caught fire with Hunter at our house.

Fortunately, I was able to put the fire out quickly with the second extinguisher. It took a couple of sprays and made the hugest mess ever, but the fire was out.

Now here’s the speculation part. What really caused the fire? Here’s what I think.

The bin was plastic so as the pan heated up, the plastic became pliable and eventually melted. As it melted, the flour left in the bin fell out into the pan and began to slowly heat up and burn. Add to that, there was “flour dust” in the air as it slowly fell into the pan (wheat dust is flammable). Now, add to that the fact that plastic slowly oozed down the side of the pan and hit the eye and there were a number of reasons why there was a fire happening on my stove. 

I got lucky. I was able to quickly and efficiently put the fire out. Our house was ok. There was minimal damage and I am ok. Despite some mistakes (not paying attention, not enough smoke detectors), I did a few things right. I didn’t panic. I grabbed our fire extinguisher and immediately put it to use. Once it was out, I used pot holders to move the pan and debris to our sink and added water.

But I want you to know one important thing.

What didn’t happen when the fire broke out on my stove

The one smoke detector we have in our hallway, it didn’t go off. At all. Even after the front of our house filled with smoke so thick that I started coughing. You couldn’t see. And the smoke detector stayed off.

That’s scary.

The lesson that I learned is this: one smoke detector in our hallway is not enough. Our house is about 1800 square feet and is a single level ranch style. It’s pretty compact and simple in design with one hallway leading bathrooms and bedrooms. The hallway ends in our living room and the living room opens immediate to our kitchen/dining room. It’s a simple layout.

Our smoke detector didn’t go off because it was too far away from the fire. I never considered a fire in the kitchen while I wasn’t in there. But it happened and because it did, I will be installing a few more smoke detectors, particularly the kitchen and laundry room. Even though we have one centrally located near the bedrooms in our hallway, I am adding smoke detectors in each bedroom. We use electric baseboard heaters in the winter in the bedrooms so we need them in each room where those will be used. Is this overkill?  Maybe, but I don’t really care. My family’s safety is more important.

It is recommended that you have one in every bedroom and on each level of your home. I think you definitely want one in your kitchen and laundry room because those two rooms are “hot zones” for fire with the stove and dryer. We are also adding one to our living room because we heat with a wood stove. Right now, I plan to get a combination smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector for the living room.

And another thing about putting out a fire…

Do you have a fire extinguisher? When my friends heard my story, most of them said the same thing: “I don’t even have a fire extinguisher.” Thank God I did. The fire extinguisher saved my house.

Fire extinguishers are something that none of us want to spend money on but they might be the thing that saves your home. Once you use your extinguisher, you will need to purchase another one unless you find a company that will recharge them (as I learned with the first extinguisher I tried). We only have one extinguisher in our kitchen but I think we need to keep one in our “hot zones.” I also think we should put one in our master bedroom since it is on the opposite end of the house.

For me, what could have been a total tragedy ended up being one of the scariest experiences of my life. We got lucky though. The stove is okay, despite the fire. There is no smoke damage, only a few burn marks on the floor from when I moved the pan (the stainless steel metal pan melted on the bottom and was dripping when I moved the pan…I didn’t realize this until it was too late). I burned my foot on the bottom stepping on the metal when it hit the floor and I love a pair of flip-flops that were laying in front of the stove.

But my house is okay and I’m okay. That’s what I choose to focus on. Well, that and adding a few more safety measures to our home.

I hope you learned something from what I shared with you today. I also hope you’ll take my advice and add some more smoke detectors, check the batteries in the smoke detectors you have and spend the money on fire extinguishers. I can promise you that you won’t regret it in those moments when a fire happens at your home.

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Cooking Ahead: What’s Worked So Far

artisan bread with "scallops"
via

It’s been a week or two but I’ve tried to stay diligent on cooking more from scratch again.  I thought I’d do a few updates on what we’ve been eating and how this domestic diva thing is going.

Refrigerator bread–the last bit of the dough will be eaten tonight so I’ll mix up some more.  This has been great for ball game nights where we cook and eat after we get home.  I put it on to rise before we leave and then pop it in the oven while we cook. It’s usually done about the same time as supper.

Meatballs–I fell in love with the Pioneer Woman’s meatballs recipe long ago.  They take time to make but are SO good.  We ate them last weekend so I doubled the recipe.  That gave me 80 meatballs.  I did the browning stage and then cooled and froze them.  That’s 2-3 meals for us.

Granola–its been gone.  In like 3 days, they ate it all.  I need to make more tonight (no baseball game!)

Homemade pizza–one of my favorite things to make.  I use this crust recipe that doesn’t require a rise time but substitute olive oil for the vegetable oil. I make my own pizza sauce and freeze it (if there are leftovers).

Freezer jam–family friends are selling strawberries locally this year so I picked a gallon last weekend.  We had strawberry shortcake that night, snacked on some and still made 8 containers of freezer jam.  I am hoping to get another gallon today or tomorrow to freeze for winter time.  The season is almost over here.

A few other things I have or need to be doing:

Tea–so much cheaper than soda and better for us I think!  We have decided to cut the sugar in our’s by a third (we’re southern, okay…We have sweet tea in our veins!) and so far, so good.

Onions–Hunter purchased some Vidalia onions (local in that we live in Georgia) recently and I need to slice, dice and freeze before they go bad.

Squash–I need to make the Rhett some.  He’s one now and eating more solids but he’s not tried yellow squash.  My dad has some ready now so we need to try it (and eat more ourselves).

Blackberries have bloomed and by mid-June, it’ll be picking time!  We missed it last year so needless to say, I am excited to pick berries!  Blueberries will be in a little sooner and I plan to pick some of those as well.  Hunter and the kids really like them.

I think that’s about it for right now.  My stockpile is a little too low on basics for my comfort so I’m trying to get things stocked back up.  My pantry is so much smaller than the old house so I’m having to be a little more clever.  I swear if one more can falls on my toes, I will lose my mind.  I will.