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Category Archives: Rightsizing

Summer in the Winter

The weather here has been crazy. Short sleeve weather. Open the windows and eat outside.

Tuesday, we just decided we needed a road trip to our favorite flea market, farmer’s market and lunch stop. Manheim PA. The Roots market and auction.

It’s a throwback to the large markets once common across the country. Not that far off from some of the best markets we found on our trip to the Mediterranean.  Lots of local stuff. Some not so local stuff. Many vendors selling goods. Used items.

Everything and anything. Even a live poultry auction in one of the buildings.

Flea markets are fun. I found a treasure trove of Time Life cookbooks of the world here a few years back. This year, wandering around we did find a book seller that had many of the westerns that my mom loves. In large books, without faded print.

We had lunch. Did a bit of shopping. I picked up some of my favorite celery. Some herbs. A couple avocados to go with the Tuscan kale in my CSA share.

A lazy day in almost perfect weather.

This celery was the real reason for the trip. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Head up to the area just west of Lancaster, on any Tuesday. Find Hodecker’s. Their celery is so sweet, and so different from that in the stores. The family sells their home grown product part of the year, and the rest of the year imports the same variety from California. It’s different. It’s awesome, and a treat for those of us who enjoy the best produce we can find.

We must be crazy. Driving for two hours just to buy celery. And have PA sausage subs. And home made cookies for dessert. Maybe pick up a shoo fly pie.


Aging In Place

In an aging place.

Had quite a bit of thought about the whole aging process. Aging of us. Aging of our home. I don’t consider 30 to be old, but around here, it’s almost ancient. Not quite as bad as being 50, which is what many of the original homes in Columbia MD are soon to celebrate.

I worked in the UK, where 600 years old wasn’t out of the question. We are spoiled. Living in a relatively newly developed area. Still, I watched people turn up their noses at our townhouses (gasp) without garages. Ours, built in the early 80s were too old and dated for the crowd who wanted those brand new places in River Hill.

old house 002

Columbia is pretty much built out now. The county is expanding, or tearing down and rebuilding. I loved our old townhouse, right in the center of town. Too bad for us, we really wanted to follow our dreams of a big garden, and a couple of radio towers. Bucket list items. Not allowable under covenants.

That house is now 35 years old. Still looks great. Why? Because we took care of it. I see so many places now that are pretty much devastated due to lack of basic maintenance.

2011 nikon zoom 071

What is this? A pile of the cedar we were replacing in this house. Our “new” house. Built in 1987. At 24 years, we replaced almost 50% of the wood. Not fun. Not cheap. Not sexy.

But, it was the bones of the house. The basics of maintenance. I can’t figure out why collectively we don’t take care of the biggest investments most of us will make in our lives.

garden in the rain 158

We took care of our infrastructure the first 10 years. New roof. New doors. New heat pumps and appliances. Making our home a warmer, safer, more energy efficient place to live.

Now, we are working on those aesthetic things. Painting, carpeting. Keeping our house new looking, while not shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy something else.

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I think I can deal with six weeks of mess to get painted walls, new bathrooms and carpet in all but those high dollar areas. We still will have to tackle the master suite and the kitchen.

At the end of this road, a house that accommodates an aging couple. But won’t look old.

Making Resolutions … Or Not

Last year I replaced resolution making with my “Sixty@Sixty” challenge to do in my 60th year. I found it was much more fun but still productive.

Like in my rightsizing challenge. Taking on the kitchen and pantry, the overload of books not needed, the work clothing we had in the closet.

I made it through most of those categories, failing when it came to finishing six items in traveling, birding, festivals and diners.

I blogged a few days back about whether I would forego resolutions again in the upcoming year.

I decided on a hybrid of the two. A couple of challenges, mixed with some real resolutions.

We need to clean out our garage of things that don’t get used. Or that should be stored elsewhere. I think it’s one doable goal. That we can get done.

I want to expand my baking. Using yeast for things like bagels, pretzels, and some other challenges brought about by reading Smitten Kitchen after finding that great granola recipe from Deb’s cookbook.

I am also committed to break out of my rut and get us to those new destinations, even if just for an overnight trip.

I want to redo the garden, and I have seeds for some challenging plants, like cardoons and Malabar spinach.

I want to go to The Common Market once a month and bring home something from the bulk food bins that I have never cooked myself, like those exotic rices, beans, grains and nuts.

As for blogging, I made it through the year (well, I have three days left) with blogging daily. Sometimes it was posted after midnight, but there are posts for every day.

Next year, cutting it back, to eliminate some redundancy, to 4-5 times a week and focusing on local things to do, places to go, and my farm series needs to be resurrected.


I also need to update those pages here on the blog, and finish the two draft pages I want to add.

As for time volunteering. The big challenge this year is the food preservation program I am working on. Plus, more time out on the trails around the Conservancy.


It is good to be busy. To have goals. To keep retirement interesting. 2013 has been pretty eventful.

Here’s to turning 61 in a few hours. That’s not old. That’s just getting started in the seventh decade. And, soon it will be 2014. Amazing how time flies when we’re having fun.

Tackle Six Rightsizing Projects

Part of my Sixty@Sixty list. Back on my 60th birthday, I made a list. Ten different categories. Six things in each one. The last one. Rightsizing projects.

I finally culled down the list of all that needs to be done around here and came up with these items. Here is the list. And, below, the progress made in each one of them.

1. Books
2. Clothes
3. XMAS decorations
4. Pantry and Kitchen
5. Pictures and collectibles
6. Travel Souvenirs

Big items. Not something easily achieved, but after moving 42 years of things out of my MIL’s house when she went to a retirement apartment I know these are things we need to address. I mean, how many T shirts from other places do we really need in this house?

I have made some progress in each category, but there is a long way to go. Highlights.

Books — I have way too many cookbooks and magazines. I haven’t tackled that puppy yet, but I will get there. I mean, Great Dinners from Life? I don’t want to know how old that book is.

books and garlic 021

I did put together three grocery bags full of work reference books, old fiction, paperbacks and hiking books. They went off to the book bin. There used to be one at Glenwood but it is gone. My husband found another one, and it got a hefty deposit. Besides the donation to the bin, I gave my mom all sorts of old paperbacks, mostly Patricia Cornwell and Tom Clancy. She took them to her friends at church. They pass around books to read.

Clothes — this one started last fall and is still a priority. I put together two huge plastic bags full of work clothes and other things after Hurricane Sandy. Gave them to HoCoRising’s SO to take to Jersey on her trip to help hurricane victims.

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After that great beginning, I have donated to the boxes at Kendall’s, four more bags of work clothes. After all, I now live in blue jeans or shorts and only need a few nice items in my wardrobe. Besides, getting rid of all my larger sized clothes is my incentive to keep losing weight. I am almost finished with my stuff. Time to tackle my better half’s closet full of things he won’t be wearing much anymore. Does he still need five suits? All those management suits and ties. Really. He could keep two, one summer weight and one winter. The rest. Need a good home for someone new to the workforce.

XMAS decorations — this was one royal pain to do. We really need to throw away things we no longer use. Since no charities want them, they go in the trash. I dumped quite a few tree decorations, and we went through all the lights and the wreaths and deer to only have good strings of lights left.

birds and christmas tear down 001

Besides fixing the lights, I also made a vow. No more Christmas card buying. There are more than enough all over the study. I consolidated everything this year and will not succumb to those post Christmas sales anymore. I have at least ten years worth of cards around here.

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Travel Souvenirs — Besides the dozens of T shirts I have given away, there are the other things. How about volksmarching medals? We used to do volksmarching and collect medals. I donated them to the Conservancy for a geocaching event. There is another one in March and the rest of the medals will go there. The children loved getting medals when they finished the challenge. They also loved the foreign coins in one of the boxes on the trail. Both came from our souvenir stashes. In March, I am also contemplating donating all our postcards collected on travels. The children really have fun finding treasures in the boxes at the geocache sites.

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Pantry and Kitchen — I have cleaned out the spice containers and made rubs, herb mixes and spice mixes. Some I gave away at Christmas. The rest I am plowing through in my cooking. No more industrial spice and herb purchases. Except for garlic powder, salt and oregano, which I use quite a bit.

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Getting a cleaned up pantry is a priority, and I am nowhere near completion on this one.

As for my last item, pictures and collectibles, I haven’t done much other than organize. Now comes the hard part. Downsizing it. We have stamps from my husband’s dad. Dolls and pictures from his mom. Pictures from my mom. Depression glass. Doilies! Yes, a blanket sized plastic zip bag full of hand crocheted items from his mom. My grandmother’s china. All these things. Never used anymore. What to do with them. They have no real monetary value, just sentiment.

Beyond the fun things on my Sixty@sixty list, these are the hard ones.

Sixty @ Sixty

Yes, sixty years young, today. This is one of those significant birthdays. Worthy of doing something different to commemorate.

I recall one of my fellow volunteers talking about traveling to celebrate a milestone birthday. Something like 50 days for the 50th birthday. We traveled way too much when we worked. We are really enjoying our surroundings and doing things we never got to do while we were in the work force.

So, I decided. Sixty is, of course, six decades. Six times ten. Six things, ten times. Or, ten things six times. I settled on more experiences with less to accomplish in each. It looks simpler to do. We shall see. I have been doing research already to find things that interest me.

sixty sixty 006

This year, no New Year’s Resolutions, just the pursuit of these stretch goals, for lack of a better descriptor. Some are fun, some may be difficult. If I enjoy this journey, I may make it into a page. A journal of sorts. Since I am an avowed locavore, locapour, and still a foodie, many involve cooking, eating, gardening, farming, the county and nearby places.

dessert wine and trip to VA 150

My list —

Visit six festivals and/or fairs that are new to me
Taste at six new wineries never visited before
Seek out six new farmstands or markets to expand my locavore network
Do something different or visit someplace new in six states other than MD
Eat at six small business restaurants and/or diners
Eat/drink or experience six childhood memories
Log six new birds not seen before
Cook and eat six new proteins, i.e., meat, seafood, beans or nuts
Grow and/or eat six exotic fruits, veggies or herbs
Tackle six rightsizing projects

Some are self explanatory but others will take some initiative. Rightsizing projects include things we inherited from our families and things we accumulated over our 60+ years. Things like pictures, CDs, books, tools, clothes, shoes, whatever lurks in closets and cabinets. Having the space here makes it one of those often avoided projects.

The childhood memories include things like — riding a ferris wheel again, or a merry go round, or eating cotton candy, or a root beer float. Things we did as kids.

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For my first project, my husband bought a pomegranate at Wegmans yesterday. I have had pom juice, and pomegranate balsamic, but never tried getting the seeds out and using one in cooking. Tonight’s salad will have pom seeds on it. Maybe using my fennel we bought, and oranges. I am making my own birthday dinner, doing things I want to eat. Rockfish. Salad. Roasted cauliflower. None of it hard to make, and no worries about driving in the slush/snow/ice/whatever we have on the ground tonight.

It is still snowing out here. The red bellied woodpecker and one of the squirrels were out there chowing down this morning while I was prepping the fish in a marinade.

sixty sixty 010

This is a new young red bellied woodpecker, who is more skittish than the older ones are. He bolts when he sees the reflection of my camera. As for the acrobatic squirrel, he is lucky today. I don’t have the two layer baffle system on the large suet holder, and he can defeat just one. Besting the squirrels is a major undertaking here. Or, at least keeping them under control.

Who knows what this year, 2013, will bring to us here. I do know I intend to make it somewhat memorable, and certainly don’t intend to be bored.


Round Up Those Resolutions

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Having a blog means getting to see what you said you were going to do in your New Year’s Resolutions. And then, when you revisit them, see if you made any progress, or just forgot about them. I did revisit in April.

Then, I did forget to see if I did anything. It’s been almost eight months, and I think before I make any resolutions for 2013, I should see if I accomplished any of the 2012 ones. Why make resolutions just to ignore them, or shelve them?

I did get that freezer. It is full. I am using it. Garlic scape pesto, chicken and turkey broth, chunky tomato sauce, all being used. CSA veggies being preserved in it and nothing going to waste. I think I can call this one a win.

pesto, fruit, veggies, broth ready for winter

pesto, fruit, veggies, broth ready for winter

We didn’t bid on a 4H animal this year, but I am getting venison tomorrow. Changing into almost 100% locally supplied beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb and now, venison. Not buying from grocery stores. That is a huge change in our consumption. I think that is another win. I even started buying bones from the Mt. Airy butcher to make my own stocks.

beef bones for stock

beef bones for stock

I did lose weight, even with the set back of surgery. Not very much, but down from a year ago. That will be another major goal next year. Make it a double digit loss, though, instead of a cumulative single digit loss. Still, six pounds down from a year ago isn’t bad.

Didn’t do chickens, or a cold frame. We think we will pass on the chickens, until we find a better place for my garden and get the radio towers positioned. Still want to do the cold frame.

As for baking and cooking. Didn’t bake that much, but did get cookies done for the Holiday Mart. Decided baking and losing weight are a problem, unless you bake to give away.

Cooking, on the other hand. Doing lots more and getting creative. Pumpkin hummus. Ajvar, now a staple in my recipe file. More cinnamon, garlic and other Mediterranean flavors. The venison will become many stews and chilis. I want to use tomatillos in it. I have branched out to new items.

ajvar and hummus

ajvar and hummus

All in all, I am pleased with this year’s changes. And, yes, we did a bit of decluttering. The boxes in our garage from my husband’s office are gone. The shed has been cleaned to remove all leftovers from the roof, gutter and siding replacement jobs. Now, to get the tractor out of the garage so my car can go back in it. Before we get SNOW! That is one of my final big goals. But, at the moment tower parts, cable, rotors, antenna parts, all are still in the shed and the tractor needs just a bit more floor space than we have there. Hope that getting this crank up done this week will get me back in the garage. Keeping my fingers crossed.

making progress on the first tower

making progress on the first tower

I guess I will make public resolutions for 2013. I seem to have done OK this year. Still loving the CSA and knowing I can eat locally year round in Howard County was a very pleasant surprise and motivates me to keep doing it. I need to update the local resources page to keep it current and show where things can be bought in the winter.

Oh, almost forgot. Still volunteering and loving it. In 2013, I will be helping with programs at the Conservancy to showcase local farmers and artisans. Can’t give up that precious gift of time.


Costco Revisited

I have to admit, with all the new stores, and the changes I have made to cooking from scratch, I seem to have abandoned Costco. Not that it is such a bad thing. But, it surely shows that bulk buying is no longer part of my food budget.

We got our rebate check last week. It was roughly half of last year’s check, and didn’t cover the difference between basic membership, and the more expensive rebate membership. It looks like we will be changing our level when I renew.

From a produce standpoint, they have never been a good deal for me. Too many times, produce went bad far quicker than what we bought in the grocery stores, and now that we have almost year round CSA membership, I definitely can tell the difference. Everything we get from our CSA lasts longer, since it was picked one or two days before we receive it. Greens stored in our spinner can last up to two weeks, without turning or going all slimy on me.

I was there on Friday. We needed batteries and printer cartridges. I also wanted to pick up a few baking supplies to make Christmas cookies. I did end up finding one of the best deals for me there. The ends of wild ahi. They don’t always have it.

I like to buy it this way, then portion it out into meal sized medallions and one long strip suitable for slow cooking in tomato sauce in the oven. I get four or five meals from one of these. I use Costco’s cling wrap to put the individual portions into, and then put it all in a freezer bag. It does minimize any sort of drying out, and freezer burn.

The other staple in my pantry that I still buy in bulk there is the Pacific brand low sodium organic chicken stock. I use it often. It is the base for some of my couscous dishes. For risotto. A little in the bottom of a pan when I am deglazing it after sauteeing something. It is always in my fridge. My good homemade stocks are reserved for soups. These soups are 6 for $12 at Costco. Way less expensive than Roots. As for other grocery stores, they don’t all carry the low sodium one.

This last visit, I went in and checked out the produce. A good deal is only a good deal when it doesn’t get rotten. I can’t see buying a dozen cucumbers, or a huge bag of fruit.

We now have CSA pickups 42 weeks of the year. It will be interesting to see what I find around here from New Years until the beginning of March when we start up with Breezy Willow. I may be doing quite a bit of shopping at Roots, or head over to Wegmans to check out their winter organic produce. Thankfully, Olney will have their Sunday market starting in January, and weekly visits to Breezy Willow and TLV will keep me in eggs and meat.

Now that I have made the switch to minimize processed foods, unless we need to put tires on my husband’s car, it makes no sense to keep the more expensive membership at Costco. I suppose we have finally gone beyond the acquiring stage of our lives, and are moving into divesting ourselves of things. It was nice to get my camera, and my husband’s laptop there. As for food and clothes, we have cut back the purchases there. Books. Nope. Software, too. Christmas. We all made a pact. No more gifting. We are rightsizing these days.

I do still go there for vitamins, allergy pills and basic drug store stuff like Tylenol. Toothbrush heads. Toothpaste. Things we use daily and that make sense to buy at their better prices.

This is such a change from how I shopped ten years ago. I have to admit I didn’t think I could be so different when it comes to finding those “bargains”. Nowadays, to me, this is the bargain. A box full of just picked goodness. Can’t wait to see what we get tomorrow.


Spring Cleaning: Visiting the Landfill & Getting Ready for Greenfest

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Mondays are my favorite day to hit the landfill. No lines. Things are cleaned up quite a bit. Since we have had less rain than normal, there is no mud back in the yard waste dumping area.

We were up there today dropping off invasive plants we pulled, plus I don’t know how many bags of shredding. I noticed that the hazardous waste collection site opened last Saturday. That means, though, to us we need to brave the large number of county residents who come up on Saturdays. We will at least be able to get rid of all the CFLs in the bag in the garage. Now, if they would just take batteries. We never remember to take them to Radio Shack.

For those with pickup trucks, the county has mulch, top soil and compost for sale at better prices if you need large quantities to do yard work.

For small wood projects, you can also wander into the pallet drop off area and look for scraps. There is no one there today, but many days I see people looking for materials to do wood work, or make bird houses, or frame compost bins. Amazing what you can find there.

I also noticed on the way out, that the 55+ housing is pretty close to the landfill property. Not my idea of a great view. But, they will be close to the Goodwill truck that comes twice a month to that location. Good for spring cleaning and downsizing.

This week, though, we will be taking things on the 14th to Greenfest as part of our cleaning. The boxes of old homeowner association records to shred, some clothing too big to wear anymore for Goodwill, and lots of shoes for the Nike recycling.

If you can’t make it to the landfill to do spring cleaning, don’t forget Greenfest at Howard County Community College.