Friday, June 29, 2018

30 Bags in 30 Days Announcement and List

Hi everyone,

Yes, it is back and by popular demand too!

This year, during the month of July, I invite you to participate in a 30 Bags in 30 Days Challenge.
What does it mean?

We are going to spend the month of July decluttering our home, one bag at a time!

The goal:

Getting rid of unnecessary items we thought we wanted but no longer like, broken stuff, ugly stuff, useless stuff, expired stuff. All those things we burden ourselves with (like that horrendous sweater gift from Aunt Jenny  or the coffee mug with a chip that can no longer go in the microwave).

The outcome:

Keeping those things we really, really like (and yes sometimes those things we are not ready to part with) and streamlining our home. Overall it will make the cleaning routines much easier (that's coming up in August).

The rules:

1. Any bag size as long as it is large enough to contain a few items (a ziploc bag does not count). So most grocery shopping bags or larger ones would do. A box is fine too.
2. Item is too large for a bag? Any furniture item or bulky item will count as one bag. Say it's day 4 and you get rid of a sofa. Done!
3. To the best of your ability try to collect all items first for one bag, then separate them into donate, trash and recycle. 
4. Don't stress it - There is absolutely no pressure to declutter anything you feel uncomfortable with. For instance, if you are not ready for books (ahem) move on to another task or revisit a previous task. 
5. We are decluttering, not reorganizing. In other words, let's not spend time rearranging stuff, we are here to get rid of stuff, not trying to make the rest of the house pretty, at least not yet. 
7. You do not have to fill the bag. If you are done, well, that's it for the day.
8. If you want to fill more bags, go ahead. You can fill up more than one bag in one day.
6. Spend no more than one hour per day.

So we can all work together, here is a list of items we will declutter, one day at a time :

Instructions for printing from this calendar:

Right Click on the image below
Chose Open Image in a new tab
Right Click and Chose Save Image As (chose location, it will save as a jpeg)
Find the image on your computer, Open and Print

Instructions for printing from my Facebook Page:

Go to My Great Challenge Facebook (Click HERE)
Locate the post where I have inserted the JPeg version of the calendar
Click on the picture
Right Click and Save as
Open the picture and Print

So what happens if you only have one bathroom, or one bedroom? No worries, under each room I give you a list of things to declutter, so you can focus on those items rather than the actual room. I am also providing bonus ideas in case my categories do not apply.

At one point or another, you will find an item that does not belong where you find it. No problem, take this opportunity to relocate it. You may want to bring a basket along to gather such items. 

Because I am filming, editing and posting (it takes time) , and in the interest of saving my sanity, I probably will film more than one video per day in order to have videos posted daily without too much strain on myself and the family. But, videos will be posted daily starting July 1.

I hope you can join me in this challenge. It is going to be hard for a lot of us, but in the end, oh so worthy!

Good luck and see you on July 1!


Here are some of my favorite books on home management:

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Week(s)-In-Review - June 17, 2018

Hi everyone,

Time, it's all relative, right? I mean, I can stretch it and fill my plate up with more than I can handle, tackling one challenge after problem! 
Take this blog, for instance, didn't I say there would be weekly updates? What was I thinking? In any event, here I am with some highlights from the last...SEVEN...weeks!

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I am going to start where I left off.  The cat!

It was an interesting journey to find just the right one for our family. Vesper truly was irreplaceable and we never thought we could get a cat as gentle, loving and dog patient as her. Turns out Scott was having the hardest time deciding whether he would want another cat based on this slim chance a new cat could be just as wonderful as Vesper was.

I cannot name all the shelters I went to, not to mention pet stores and other online adoption sites. Once Scott said "yes", I pretty much made it my business to find just the right cat for us. We had a few bumps along the way, some false advertising where a supposedly friendly kitty turned out to be the reincarnation of Damien (from the Omen), and a lot of scratches later, we were ready to call it quits until Ms. Pat (Ms. Pat's Cats) gave me a buzz regarding a Tabby named George. We were to meet at the adoption event in West Orange, NJ.

Sure enough, I arrived only to find George was a Garfield on steroids. I was on my way out the door when I spotted a grey tuxedo staring at me, and I mean, she was staring at ME, through the crowd. What the heck, I said, it must be what I am wearing! Well, Ms. Pat did not have much information about this one other than she went by the name of Cuddles and her owners moved to Florida, leaving her behind. So right here and there, my heart broke into a thousands tiny pieces because, really, what kind of **&( &^%$ moves and leaves their pet behind. Sure enough, I checked her out and the rest is history.

I let Scott name her Fiona, after the James Bond villain Fiona Volpe. I was going for Solitaire but since I have been naming all the pets we have had over the years, I owed it to him.
Here is Fiona:

William had wanted another cat for so long! He is the designated feeder.

And I found me a quilting companion!

Would you look at those eyes!

A few fun facts about her:

She does not care for the dogs and will only come on the first floor if they are crated. She is not very brave in that sense, can't say I blame her, Elektra and Le Chiffre are like two bulls in a china store. It's a miracle I do not have more breakage in the home.
She has this thing where she will wait for Scott and I to go to bed, at which point she will spend about 10 minutes staring at the staircase to the bedroom, guarding the way until she is certain no one else is coming. She then climbs onto the bed, gets on top of Scott and kneads there for a while then comes over my way and lays down on top of me to sleep until I just can't take her weight anymore. I can't say she is heavy but after 30 minutes she might as well weigh a ton. 

She has escaped a few times, bolting through the front door, but each time was easily carried back inside. We are just not comfortable with letting her out, just yet. The last time she did, William went into a full blown panic! Poor kid. 

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That same weekend, we went to Kean University for Edward's yearly Music Gala. His Concert Band made it to #1 in Northern NJ. It's a nice campus.

Serenity Memorial Garden at Kean University

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And there was a fantastic Quilt Show in Edison, NJ too. I have learned a lot from just looking at all the wonderful quilts on display. I just wish they had more demonstrations but then again I could have signed up for a class. I must admit I am still too needle shy for that. I look at my work and think I am not good enough, improving, but not good enough.

Here is a video of the show if you are interested:

Speaking of quilting, do I have a story for you!
So, I am following the Quilt Along With Pat Sloan - In the Summer Time quilt along. (20 weeks, 20 blocks). I had a lot of fat quarters I had purchased on sale at a local machine repair shop. Sure enough, I ended up with not enough of the background fabric. 
I went on to every quilt page one can find on facebook, the manufacturer and the internet...nothing. So weeks went on (3 to be exact) and I only had one lead, a store in Australia which never responded to my repeated emails. 
There I was, convinced I would not be able to finish my sister's quilt when one Nadine T. from Michigan contacted me and let me know she would send me a yard! 
Faith in humanity restored!
The quilting community is quite something else, you know, (well aside from the fabric snobs). I have met such wonderful, compassionate and supportive people since resuming this hobby. No regrets. Time consuming, expensive, back breaking, sure. But the reward, the pride and the folks you meet and converse with, wow, just priceless.

Here are my progress thus far on my sister's quilt. 3 more blocks to go.

We are all making the same quilt and Pat Sloan issues a new block every Wednesday (I am 2 blocks behind). The goal is to learn new techniques and sharpen our skills.
If you head over to Pat Sloan's facebook page, you will get to see other examples of the same quilt design. Everyone chooses their own colors.

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I try to find the time to quilt but let's be honest here, the days are just not long enough. Granted all my Saturdays are blocked with school (one more to go and I am free again) but still, so much time is spent being pulled away into a new direction, day after day, after day.
I give you a for instance. 
We were pretty much settling back into a routine after my in-laws visited when Boom! The HHR crapped out on us and I had to buy a new car. 

Then before you know it, we had to get new dryer and washer and bust out the staircase (you all heard about that story).

Add some gardening in between and I feel like the two of us have been on a treadmill for the past 4 weeks. 
But here is something you don't know: Scott is no longer working in NYC. He is now working remotely, from home!
You know what that means? I have been permanently booted out of the office as he now has 5 computer screens running on the entire length of the counter! And best of all, he took one of their office chairs back home and his ugly chair is GONE!

Yep, that used to be my space!

With Scott working from home, I now enjoy a bit of a break in the evening. I am no longer rushing back to the house to get one kid to band, another to karate while making dinner and editing a video all at the same time, I officially have a backup!

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In other news:

👩🏻‍🔧 I finally bought a new pair of sneakers! I picked the Asics Gel-Excite in Indigo. Comfy, light, great color and well, purple soles. Great pair of sneakers, you will probably watch me wear them to death for the next two years.

👩🏻‍🔧 I sold the two windows that were in the garage for $75 (both). The lady who bought them said she was going to make headboards with them! I am just glad I was able to make a few bucks, after all, I have had those parked in the garage since October 2014!

👩🏻‍🔧 Mom 's putting me on a long distance diet. If you have ever heard of it, it basically consists of your being lectured about your weight via weekly telephone calls. Coach mom has already sent a series of books from this French diet guru named Jean Michel Cohen. Here is his book in English , if you are interested in  living sugar free (or almost) for the rest of your soon to be miserable life! 

You can click on the amazon link (below) as I am shamefully including it in this blog. It's not just because it is an affiliate link, let's be real, I really don't want to be suffering alone!     


So, when am I starting this "revolutionary" diet (using coach mom's language here)? Well, I have to read the book, don't I? Am I going to do a video series on this? Probably not. Why not? Because I have failed every attempt at losing weight in the past 5 years on YouTube, so why documenting that, again! LOL! 
Plus, If I lose weight, you'll see it anyway. If I don't, business as usual!

Ok, let's put the sarcasm to rest here for a minute and engage in some armchair psychology, shall we?

This is the part where Sophia opens up about her weight, so pay attention because it does not happen often.

Fact: I am miserable.
Fact: I don't recognize myself.
Fact: I am scared to go on a diet because I have failed every single one of them for the past 33 years of my life. ( I was told by my dance teacher I would be kicked out of the solos if I was not losing the weight, I was 15, I was the best he had, I could do 4 pirouettes on pointes and not bat an eye, he broke my heart, I ate more). 
Fact: I am not the wife Scott married and that really, really, really hurts. (How do you like the spilling of the beans so far?)
Fact: I just went to kohls and bought a pair of jeans size 14 and I am freaking out. I was in tears on the way back home. So what did I do? I stopped by Dunkin Donuts and ate a croissant. I felt better. True story.

I am like everybody else, I struggle with the same struggles, I go through life buying time and procrastinating the most important aspects of my life and I justify it by being busy. And busy I am, that's no lie. I get up at 6am and don't retire until 1130PM. The entire day I am on the move being occupied with one thing or another. I am not making excuses, it's the facts of life. This weekend, I went to school all day Saturday, came home, cleaned and went shopping at Khohl's. Next thing you know it's movie night at BBF's house (it was Edward's turn, we watched John Wick 2, I fell asleep). Today (Sunday) I had plans to make at least three videos (how grandiose), turned out Scott and I went to Home Depot and returned home only to busy around the yard. Weed hacked this, sprayed that, pulled this, moved that. 
On a side note, for those of you who were worried about Termites. We were serviced this week, so no bug will survive here.
Anyway, next thing you know, it's Father's Day, so we went to the Anthiopian Orthodox festival for a dose of cultural competency. That was fun!

Scott picked the Falafel Platter

Folklore Dancers, at some point they threw money on the ground, no idea what that meant, but William thought that was awesome!

Edward had a Cheesesteak Sandwich

St. George, Orthodox Church in Little Falls, NJ

William, plain burger.

I had the Gyro platter

Happy Father's Day, Scott!

So anyway, back to the weight issue. 

I truly believe that most of us can lose the weight if we really want to. Aside from the few with medical conditions, it really is a matter of will and might. Or as good old Winston Churchill used to say, blood, sweat, tears and toil. 
The problem is really not the losing part of it, it's the maintaining afterwards. Having given a shot at every diet in the universe, I can attest to this one bit of a fact, none of them teach you how to or truly transform your way of life for the long run. They claim they do but they really don't. 
They are all fantastic motivators, they use the results as the leitmotiv to continue. But once you reach your goal, you're pretty much on your own. 
Most will have a maintenance plan, but I bet you my left arm that over 80 percent of folks don't stick to it, if they even read it. The maintenance plan is the afterthought. 
Because what we want is the results. We are not worried about what's going to happen 15 years from now, we want the weight loss NOW, we can figure out the rest when we get there. 
And that's how diets fail. You starve, you eat the unthinkable (cue to Quinoa and tofu), but it's for the greater good, that little pride you get the following day when you step on that scale and the number went down. Go Tofu! Go!
And then you reach your goal weight. In that moment, that number is a bigger satisfaction than the Apgar score of your first born (both the boys were 9.9 by the way). The flow of compliments pours in and overnight you become an expert on all matters of tofu and quinoa. 

Two weeks, three weeks go by and the pounds return. They creep back on you like the dust bunnies under the bedroom dresser. At first you don't see them and one day, you're back to square one with the shame and the guilt and the hiding under loose clothing because muffin top is back with a vengeance and you feel like a bum, again.

Let's be honest here, we revert to the only coping skill that never failed us, the Dunkin Donuts croissant. It's not even a good croissant, half the time it's stale and disappointing like the latest M. Night Shyamalan movie. It's all we know though. Food is like heroin, it does what it's supposed to do. It's short lived, but it rarely disappoints, you know exactly what to expect. Instant gratification, comfort, safety, whatever, to each his or her own. But it truly is an addiction and I know a thing or two about that. 
So here I am being audited by the State of New Jersey and providing the finest example of Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the field. The lady says she wants to return to counseling after watching me in the field. How nice! Victory...Croissant. 
Bill comes in the mail, forgot about that stupid medical bill, darn it, how did I forget that one?...Croissant. Edward and I have an argument over the true validity of this stupid National Society of Scholars thing he got in the mail....Croissant, well actually that was bread and Nutella. 
What I am supposed to do? Break his heart and tell him it's nothing like the National Honor Society?

So there I am, keeping my mouth shut by stuffing it with the good old and ever rewarding carbs and sugar combo! Because it works, it lifts your mood in an instant. It's like the mommy kiss on a minor boo boo, all the hurt goes away, just like that!

You get the idea, sometimes food is all I have. And I get it, Coach mom! It's got to change.

So I did not film anything this weekend, I am going to bed early tonight and I am going to crack open that book mom sent me and hope for the best!

Until next time!

Thank you all for your continued support of my YouTube channel, I have reached 41k subscribers this week. No regret!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Week(s) In Review - March 24 - April 22, 2018

ALERT!!! Very long blog!!!

Hi everyone,

Long Time No Blog - Been VERY busy! So here are the highlights from the last 4 weeks!

I am starting with Palm Sunday because it was an out of this world kind of experience. We concluded our Lent tour of the area churches with St. Ann's in Cedar Grove, NJ. It's a RC Melkite Church. If you have never heard of the Melkites, do not feel bad, neither did we until that day. 
In a nutshell, they are Roman Catholics from the Middle East, more particularly from Syria. Though they follow RC rituals, they also borrowed a lot from the Greek Orthodox Church. Our palm Sunday experience ended up to be a 2 hour service, complete with figure 8 processions, Brioche bread dipped in wine not to mention a fantastic and oh, so worthy exposure to a different type of service as it was both in Syrian and English. It was very interesting and well worth our time. 

St. Ann's is also the home of the shrine of Our Lady of the Americas
This icon is entirely made of silver and gemstones donated by the parish. 

The priest officiates services within this small chamber under the dome and
facing away from the parish...That's the way it used to be when I grew up.

Look at that dome ceiling! Just wow!
So since I last blogged, I had mentioned we were awaiting a truck to deliver some heirloom stuff from our family in Ohio. The truck arrived on March 26 and the house, well at least the first floor, was upside down for a couple of days.

The major piece was this Eastlake Style Gentleman's dresser which belonged to Scott's Great-Great Grandfather. Ca. 1864. 

I did a bit of research and found out two interesting things about it.

1. It was made prior to the invention of the circular saw for commercial use. I know that because none of the pieces of wood in the back or underside show the circular grit from the saw...So it was probably made prior to the use of commercial circular saws, somewhere around 1864 or it was made using wood that had been cut prior to 1864. Which leads to #2.

2. I later found out that Great-Great Grandpa James apparently made his own furniture. My father-in-law has a secretarial desk at home that was made by James. So after extensive research and close inspection of the work done on this piece, in particular the dove tails and other joining, we are now concluding that Yes! Indeed, Great Great Grandpa probably made this one too! How about that!

I did spend some time reviving it a bit, not that it needed much care, Grandma Martha takes excellent care of her stuff.  You can watch this video for more details about our new treasure:

In addition to the Victorian dresser, we received a dining room table which needs to be sanded and re-stained, Great Grandpa's toddler rocking chair and a lot of linen and fabric, including a full collection of Irish Linen Tea Towels....Projects ideas are popping left and right in my head...So many projects, so little time!

So that week leading into Easter was pretty much spent cleaning and reorganizing things, moving furniture around and what not. 

Easter weekend was spent at home as we also celebrated Scott's 51st Birthday! 

He's enjoying a glass of Courvoisier Cognac VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) in the wrong type of glass...So yes, I am looking for Cognac glasses now. 

I made some oven baked chicken with tomatoes, herbs and onions.

That's the uncooked version

We enjoyed some Sushi on one of those nights when we got pounded with another 8 inches worth of snow! And a friend dropped off a traditional Easter cake which lasted about 6 hours before only crumbs remained. 

Quilted a lot...This is the quilt I am gifting to my Mother in Law.

Ready for quilt sandwich - a real chore if you ask me!

And I am still working on the Quilt Along with Pat Sloan - In the Summer Time Quilt. (8/20 completed), this one is for my sister. 

On April 8 we went to On The Border (A Tex-Mex restaurant - not sure if it is a chain). To be honest I am not a fan of Mexican or Tex-Mex type food (aside from Scott's elusive Burritos), I usually stick with boring grilled chicken over salad. It is one of those things that is an acquired taste. We did not have Mexican restaurants when I grew up and was in my late 20's when I first had it...I was not really impressed but the kids love it.

This boy of mine had me in tears for years as he was not eating anything...
look at him now!

And that is why I do not stress over this one's similar lack of appetite, he will
get there too! 

So the main event this month was a visit from Scott's parents. We had two occasions to celebrate: Edward's 16th Birthday and his concert at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. We had a really good time, but after 5 days of cooking fresh dinners, driving around and visiting local attractions, I am ready to say I am too old for this! So Kuddos to Grandpa and Grandma for coming over and doing all this type of activities well into their 70's! 

Here are some highlights:

I am the Hostess with the Mostess!

Homemade Fritata / which is basically an oven baked omelette

And since I already mentioned I am not a fan of Mexican food, I made Blueberry Scones too!

Brunch at my house.

We visited the Millville, NJ Air Army Museum.

Edward helped the museum Curator fold the flag at the end of the day.

Here you go - three generations!

And my big red quilt was finally gifted to my Mother in Law! (she loved it!)

You can find the pattern for this quilt in the magazine below (actually it's the one on the cover)

Click HERE for the pattern

This is the back....some puckering but overall it turned out ok.

I hand stitched the binding

Details of the meandering quilting throughout the top

Some machine quilting to finish off the squares

Monday and Tuesday I took Scott's parents shopping at various spots they do not have in their area including And That! by the Christmas Tree Shops. It really is a fun store if you are looking for theme decorating.

Here is my handsome ones, I have the googly eyes non stop with these two!

Concert at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark, NJ was spectacular. 

You can count on Scott for keeping it serious at all times!

6'2'', 5'9'', 5'2'' and Edward is not even standing straight!

He is a heart breaker!

So needless to say, there has been no video recording for the YouTube channel in the past few weeks. I shall resume next weekend but I am also taking classes every Saturday until June to renew my LCADC Licence. So I am not sure if there will be a lot of YouTube going on for the next few weeks.
It does not help that I am highly invested into finishing my sister's quilt on time for her Birthday.

And one more row completed - two more rows to go!

I hope you have enjoyed spending some time reading along and getting to know us a bit more. Life at the house is never a dull moment that's for sure...And it's about to change even more as we are now officially looking for a cat! So yes, expect another James Bond Villain in the near future, who will it be? Fiona Volpe or Emilio Largo?

Thank you all for your continued support of my Channel. 

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