Living without a dishwasher (and how to cope with dish-dirtying aversion)

What is wrong with this kitchen? Look closely. Remember I am very lazy and messy. Your first thought might be that the kitchen is actually clean. And yes, that is quite the anomaly. But the real problem is (dun, dun, dun) the lack of a dishwasher.

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I spent twenty minutes cleaning the kitchen just to take this picture … or maybe I just stuffed all the dishes in the oven … hmmmm… Perhaps one day the truth will be revealed.

 

Now I know many people don’t have dishwashers and they can be considered a luxury like fresh air and clean water. But I’ve pretty much had one my whole life and now I’m spoiled. And I’m already a messy person, so not having one just contributes to the ongoing messiness of the house.

See what I mean:

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Maybe I just need more counter space to stack the dishes?

Because of the trauma that comes with seeing so many stacks of glass, porcelain, stoneware and plastic, and the trauma of having to spend minutes upon minutes with my hands immersed in warm water, furiously scrubbing last night’s mashed potatoes from each plate, I’ve developed what is considered a dish-dirtying aversion––I’m afraid of dirtying dishes. Every mug of tea, every bowl of cereal, every slice of pizza that is set on a plate equals (gasp) more time in front of the sink.

At first I tried to think of ways to fix the problem.

1. Not eat. Ha.
2. Use paper plates. Sigh. That would be bad for the environment.
3. Tape a sponge to MoJo the cat’s paw and set him to task. While the thought of making the cats finally earn their keep was enticing, I knew in the end it wouldn’t work. Their arms are too short and their work ethic is poor.

So I’ve developed a few coping strategies to minimize the dish-dirtying, and I will share in hopes of helping others who also suffer from dish-dirtying aversion.

1. I give you the “paper towel plate”

Anything that is stiff and dry works well on a paper towel plate. Think toast, bagels, cookies, crackers. Be warned that the paper towel plate is flimsy compared to the traditional plate and if not handled carefully crumbs can easily spill from the towel to the countertop or floor, thus creating a whole new mess and a potential floor-dirtying aversion.

2. Another solution I’ve used is the “plate repeat”

You see the same plate can be used more than once, especially if the same food item is being eaten each time. For example, when I make my husband a bagel sandwich for breakfast, I just wait for him to finish and then I plop my sandwich on the same plate. Ta da. Two meals, one plate. Your ability to implement this solution will be affected by the timing of meals (do you both want to eat at the same time?), the gooeyness of the meal (sometimes reusing a plate is just icky. Sometimes.) and your tolerance for pet hair (I’m not sure how it happens, but every used plate has at least one cat hair glued to it).

3. This is one of my favorites: “the package is plate”

By definition, “the package is plate” means the packaging that said food product comes in acts as the plate. It works with a can of chili (just dip the spoon right in), an apple pie still in its tin (put the pie on your lap and go to it), and leftovers from last night (just peel back the foil and dig in).

4. And lastly you can create a “mouth burrito”

This is an advanced move and should only be attempted by those who REALLY don’t want to do dishes. First you set out all your ingredients. Then pull off a small piece of tortilla and put it in your mouth, add a pinch of cheese, a spoonful of beans, and a squirt of hot sauce and then chew. Repeat as many times as needed to equal the consumption of a full burrito.

And there you have it. Jennifer Windram’s strategies for living in a non-dishwasher house. Any questions?

Our Holiday Decor Isn’t Perfect, Or Is It?

Last weekend we put up our Christmas décor and finally trimmed our tree. It was a casual affair, pajama pants and sweatshirts, leftovers and soda straight from the can. The guest list included the who’s who of the Maine Windrams: Me, my husband, and all three cats (yes, we got all three to attend).

We began with the décor we bought a few years ago, a time when we were inspired by magazine layouts, catalog ads and Lexus commercials. It was fresh, matching and super sparkly. All the best Target and Hobby Lobby had to offer–we spare no expense at the Windram house.

Matching garland went up above our windows, stuffed Santa’s and Snowmen on tabletops, festive towels in the kitchen.

Then I unpacked the hobby horse. Logan made it when he was eleven or twelve. When I look at it I can’t help but picture him wearing a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt, almost sawing his finger off.

Hobby Horse

One look at this and I knew Logan was destined to be a woodworker.

This, along with some of the other older, non-matching décor used to be displayed in their “own” part of the house, so they didn’t mess with the vibe of the sparkly new items from the big box store. But in our new place, there’s no room for that–it would all have to be displayed together.

Next, I unraveled a wad of newspaper and found these. They belonged to Logan’s grandmother. At first I thought they were angels because of the rings around their heads, but now I think they might be choirboys. Regardless, they come out every year, and while at first I thought they were weird (and they didn’t go with our store bought décor so they were put in the other part of the house), I’ve grown to really like them.

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Don’t mind our macaroon shaped heads; baby, we were born this way.

After pausing to sit on the couch and eat half a deep-dish cookie, we trimmed the tree.

During our shopping frenzy a few years ago we also invested in boxes of matching ornaments, shiny new ones that gave our tree that designer, magazine look. Again, the best Target and Hobby Lobby had to offer.

Our older, non-matching, oddball (read lesser) ornaments were relegated to the smaller tree (yes, we have two trees, three actually), where they wouldn’t interfere with the perfection that was the big tree.

But this year, in an effort to keep our moving expenses low (Ha!), we only brought one tree with us. And in a moment of whimsy (I believe brought on by the deep-dish cookie) we decided to hang both the oddball and the perfect ornaments on the same tree.

And it was marvelous.

teddy bear ornament

A brown teddy bear ornament right next to a sparkly blue snowflake. The might even be touching–scandalous!

Moose ornament

A plush moose next to a blue and white, sparkly ornament. These two haven’t reached the touching phase of the relationship, but we’re working on it.

This “ornament” was made last year. I’d forgotten all about it until Logan hung it proudly on our tree.

Ornament fail

I might not be perfectly shaped, but I’m still made of styrofoam and yarn like the other wreaths.

It was supposed to look like this:

wreath ornament

And now as I sit here enjoying our festive décor, I’ve realized it’s the oddball, mismatched items that I like best. They make me smile, remember the past and get all nostalgic. And while our house no longer looks like it could be in a magazine, I think it looks better. And it comes with a partially eaten deep-dish cookie.

The Time I Had Botulism, Sort Of … Okay, Not Really

So botulism is this super scary disease caused by Clostridium botulinum spores that create a toxin when exposed to a low oxygen environment. When eaten, the toxin can cause blurred vision, weakness and paralysis, which can affect the respiratory muscles and result in death. It also has been known, in at least one case (mine), to cause an unprecedented level of paranoia. Here are the facts of my case:

A 37 y.o. female was exposed to a puffy pouch of Friskies Gravy Sensations on 11/13/14 at approximately 8:25 a.m.

Cat food

I think the food was tainted when MoJo got into the cupboard and bit through some of the pouches. I thought I threw them all away, but obviously not.

 

She reports that the pouch seemed a little puffier than normal, but proceeded to open it anyway because she likes to live with one toe on the wild side. Upon opening it, she noted the meaty chunks of chicken (read: all the less desirable parts of the chicken, and maybe a few bits of mouse too) appeared to be a little off, meaning the chunks were a paler version of the chunks poured from the non-puffy pouch, and they exuded a malodorous, well, odor.

Being the slightly paranoid individual that she is, she was already aware of the dangers of eating food from puffy and leaking cans. Sadly, before opening this pouch, she had not applied what she knew about cans to pouches. Now, the pouch was open, with undeniable evidence that it had been tainted.

Half of the pouch’s contents had already been poured into one of the cat’s bowls, mixing with the normal, untainted chunks of food (read: still filled with the sketchy parts of the chicken and probably peppered with bits of mouse, but slightly less malodorous and the chunks were still dyed to appear like real pieces of meat).

Being the very caring cat owner that she is, she immediately dumped the contents in the trash and gave the bowl a quick wipe down. A new, non-puffy, pouch was pulled from the cupboard and the cats were fed their breakfast.

That’s when things went terribly wrong. The woman proceeded to situate herself in front of the computer, with the internet browser open and ready to locate any and all articles that would evoke the level of fear and paranoia, that only sites like WebMD can evoke.

Today’s culprit turned out not to be WebMD, but the CDC. Now we all have been quite aware of the recent Ebola outbreak and the corresponding push by the CDC and other government agencies to quell any fear or panic that might erupt in the general population. Interestingly, the CDC has chosen a different route when it comes to the handling of food potentially contaminated with Botulism.

As example:

On the Consumer Information and Resources page, the CDC says Foodborne botulism is a rare, but serious illness.

Okay, rare was good. The woman could handle rare. But then the CDC took it to the next level.

“Even taking a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.”

Hmmm. That sounded worse. Even a small taste can cause infection. Well, the woman knew she hadn’t eaten any of the cat food. She just dumped it in the trash, ran the bowl under the faucet and dried it with a paper towel. That couldn’t be a big deal, right?

To dispose of potentially contaminated foods, the CDC recommends the following:

“Put on rubber or latex gloves before handling open containers of food that you think might be contaminated.”

What???? Gloves? The woman was now in a state of panic. She didn’t wear gloves!

“Avoid splashing the contaminated food on your skin.”

Her mind flashed back to her sloppiness when doling out the food. The “gravy” dripping down the spoon, onto her fingers and landing on the counter. Then a quick wipe with a paper towel to clean it up. She was certain she hadn’t even washed her hands. Impending doom consumed her soul.

The CDC then says to “place the food or can in a sealable bag. Wrap another plastic bag around the sealable bag. Tape the bags shut tightly … Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 2 minutes after handling food or containers that may be contaminated.”

Um, does it sound like touching contaminated food is like coming in contact with nuclear waste?

The CDC also includes a very detailed process for cleaning potentially contaminated counter tops, which involves bleach, 5-10 paper towels, soap and water, and at least 15 minutes of processing time for the decontamination to be complete.

Holy cow, the woman thought. Gloves, bleach, double bagging, a full two minutes of hand washing! All for slightly off cat food chunks. Of course, the woman had done none of these things prior to opening, handling and discarding the pouch of certain death.

A cleansing spree ensued, and the woman bleached everything including her cat’s tongues (not really, but it was considered), the trash was removed from the house, and she scrubbed her hands and face for four minutes each just to be safe.

And then the countdown began: 18 – 36 hours for the symptoms to appear. 18 – 36 hours of utter paranoia. Every itch, twitch, weird swallow meant the beginning of the end, or at least a trip to the ICU for a little time on the ventilator. A vigil was held for the cats as well. Were they walking normally? Scratching the couch with full gusto? Did one of them puke on the floor and not directly in her shoe? A little more research on the internet showed that for the most part cats were pretty much immune to botulism.

Black cat in box

Celebrating her immunity by sitting in a box.

At midnight that night, the woman woke herself to ensure she was still alive. When morning came she tested her cranial nerves.

As the day progressed, the paranoia lessened. The woman even forgot about her impending doom long enough to write a few thousand words. The next day she only thought about her botulism infection 20 or 30 times. And now a full week later it seems the botulism only infected her brain, causing great anxiety and mental paralysis, but never fully resulting in any muscular paralysis. And sadly, none of it made it to her face, where her crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles could use a little smoothing out.


By the way, I “won” NaNoWriMo. Over 52,000 words in 30 days!

The law of diminishing returns as it applies to bed making

There is something magical about a made bed. It creates a sense of accomplishment, tidiness, and organization. It means that you are a doer, an achiever, someone who knows how to tuck in the sheets and fluff the pillows.

Then, there are those who argue that it’s a waste of time. This is because (unless something goes terribly wrong … or maybe right), you will just unmake it again at night when you go to bed. So what’s the point?

For most my life, I’ve identified with both sides of the debate. I love it when the bed is made. It’s like the whole room sparkles.

bedroom

Imagine fancy sparkles all around the bed.

Of course, this requires effort and motivation, both things I don’t always have a lot of.

Sometimes, I rationalize that I shouldn’t waste precious hours (okay, minutes) on something so fleeting and meaningless (in the overall scheme of things). I could spend those minutes editing my book, or posting comments on Art’s epic comment thread. (As an aside, Art from Pouring My Art Out has been working tirelessly to break the record of number of comments on a blog post. I’ve spent a fair amount of time over there in my kitty cat pajamas and zebra slippers. As of now, his post has over 15,000 comments. You should check it out).

So, on these days, I leave the bed as is: no tucking, no straightening, and no folding.

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Day 1 of no bed making. (Don’t mind the cat, she’s always looking for attention)

Sometimes the bed goes unmade for days and it begins to look like we sleep in a vortex of sorts.

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You can see the mattress pad has slipped off the corner – this always happens on my husband’s side. I think it’s because he spins like a hotdog on one of those roller things. I, on the other hand, am the blanket stealer.

Then after a few more days it looks like this:

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Now, this is after about a week of no bed making. The mattress pad is off both corners, the comforter is completely sideways, and after a little digging I found the book I lost two days ago.

So, you might start to think that I just randomly decide whether or not to make the bed, depending on my mood, or very busy blogging schedule. Well, it’s not really true. I’m about to confess to something big here: I use bed making to keep my husband’s expectations low. And it’s a very calculated process.

You see, I work from home on a very part time basis and my husband works full time at an office job.  We haven’t set any expectations about who is responsible for what around the house, but I like to do a little cleaning here and there, so the house isn’t a disaster when he comes home.

And, as I pointed out the beginning of the post, there is something magical about a made bed. And when he comes home and sees the bed is made, it looks like I did something with my day. I was accomplished and organized. I achieved something amazing, even if the rest of the house is still in ruins. I can say, “Look, honey, I made the bed.” And his eyes light up and he lavishes me with various sentiments of approval, “it looks amazing” or “yes! I love it when the bed is made.”

Now, the one caveat with this is you can’t go and make the bed every day. More bed making does not equal more awe and praise. It is the law of diminishing returns. More bed making will eventually result in diminished wonder and awe. Worse, bed making will no longer be seen as an amazing accomplishment. It will no longer be seen as special. It will become the expectation.

So, if you ever come to my house and see the bed is unmade, you now know why.

And if you come by tomorrow, the bed will be made. Because, based on my calculations, tomorrow might be bed making day.

Disorganization: The result of hoarding, procrastination and simple laziness

This is a warning to all Type A personalities, neat freaks and the uber-organized. What you are about to see might cause heartburn, increased blood pressure or the irresistible urge to whip out your label maker.

My very talented husband recently built mismatched (but still matching) nightstands for our bedroom. See:

handmade circular nightstand by Logan Windram

Here is my husband’s new nightstand.

White handmade nightstand by Logan Windram

And here is mine. Notice the nice big drawers for storing things.

This immediately creates two conflicting emotions:

Excitement – Hey, I just got a brand new, handmade, nightstand to replace the bulky, cheap, mass-produced one that I had for years. Yay me!

Dread – Hey, I just got a brand new, handmade nightstand that now needs to be filled with the contents of my former bulky, cheap, mass-produced nightstand.

This is a problem because:

1. I’m a procrastinator (you all know that). Why do today, what can be done tomorrow?

2. I’m a bit of a hoarder. Hey, I might need that Betamax VCR one day!

3. I don’t use traditional techniques like filing, sorting or categorizing to organize my things. I like to haphazardly stuff objects here and there. Secretly, I think this boils down to laziness.

I’ve included a few pictures so you can understand the full extent of the problem:

So, here is one of the drawers from my old nightstand. Note the complete lack of order. You might also note that I collect boxes of various heartburn medications.

Inside unorganized nightstand drawer

Here is a close up of the ooey-gooey inside. See how some of the items are stained red. That’s because I spilled NyQuil in the drawer a couple of years ago and then just let it dry. You’ll also note that I have decided I must keep a single pink balloon, tire levers for a bike and post-it notes in the nightstand–should I ever need to inflate a balloon, flag something or … I’m not really sure what the tire lever does… in the middle of the night.

Close up of old nightstand drawer

And the problem is not just with the nightstand drawers. It has infected the whole house:

First, the living room end table drawer. Contents include: various chargers, cat toys, a remote control, a piece of copper pipe and travel brochures from a trip we took over a year ago.

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Next, our wine rack drawers. This one has cat nail clippers, napkin rings, wine charms (hey, those actually make sense here), toothpaste and expired (I think) gift cards.

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The second wine rack drawer has a watch I haven’t worn in over seven years, batteries, some screws, and a random key. And by the way, the mint boxes are empty.

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And lastly, our linen closet. (Yes, that’s our coffee maker on the top shelf. Don’t you keep your coffee maker in the linen closet?) I won’t even go into detail here. We’ll just call it a disaster and leave it at that.

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Often this method of storing things works just fine: Of course I know where the ballet tickets are. They’re in the wine rack with the empty box of mints, next to the cat’s old rabies tags.

But then sometimes this happens: Where is my new credit card? I know I left it in this pile of address labels, paper Christmas ornaments and old flight itineraries.  Proceed to tear house apart and accuse spouse of throwing it away. Find it two years later under the sofa cushion.

Now, I will say there is one drawer in our house that is always meticulously organized. And, no, it’s not my husband’s nightstand drawer. Although, that one is pretty organized too… It’s our spice drawer.

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Logan added this awesome spice drawer to one of our cupboards a couple of years ago.

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See how all the jars are neatly in place and all the spices are labeled. They’re even alphabetized!

And in case you’re wondering, I started this project a week ago. The contents of one drawer has been emptied, organized and neatly placed in the new drawer. The other one is still sitting on the living room floor.

Our House – A peek beneath the drywall

Some people might think we were crazy. Others might say we were foolish. But to us the next logical step was to buy a house, one that needed a little work, a little love.

We’d just gotten engaged a week prior when we found the house of our dreams: a 50-year-old foreclosure that, according to my personal standards, was barely inhabitable.

House before remodel

Note the weeds, dead grass and complete lack of curb appeal.

We fell in love instantly. I mean, what wasn’t to love? It had hardwood floors that had been painted brown, a heater that couldn’t be used, kitchen cabinets with holes in the bottom, so if items weren’t placed correctly they would fall through onto the counter tops. There was even an “addition” on the back for more space.

bathroom before remodel

The icky bathroom, with cracked tiles, filth everywhere and broken fixtures.

Kitchen before remodel

The kitchen cabinets were made from scrap two by fours and plywood. The doors didn’t line up, were falling off and just nasty.

Master bedroom before remodel

This was the master bedroom. First, you can see the floors were painted brown. Second, you can see that a bed was in the room when the floors were painted. I totally get why this happened. I understand. When I dust or vacuum, I just work around things. Moving them is way too much work. And nothing says relaxation and romance like walls painted Kermit the Frog green.

Exterior of addition

This was the addition. The back porch was framed in and “windows” had been installed.

Inside view of addition

An inside view of the addition. To make it seem more, well, like a part of the house, carpet was added and the brick wall was painted white.

First we disinfected the house from floor to ceiling because, as my fictional vampire Libby would say, “It was just like ew! You know.”

Then, with the wisdom that comes with never doing something like this before, we allotted ourselves  two weeks to work on the house before we had to relinquish my lovely, up to date, and heated condo. I bring up heated because the gas company wouldn’t turn our heat on because the furnace was unsafe. We lived without heat for about a week. I had to buy a space heater and spent each night under a mound of blankets. As most of you know. I am cold… all the time. This didn’t help.

My husband started on the bathroom, gutting it to the studs. He worked pretty quickly, but there were still frequent visits to fast food restaurants for bathroom breaks.

bathroom remodel

Nothing like showing up after a long day of work and finding your only bathroom looking like this.

bathroom remodel

I might have had a moment of fear here. Or denial. He’s got this under control. I’m sure. I’m just going to go stand in the living room and try not to touch anything.

where the toilet goes

Where the toilet goes.

Now with a toilet

The new toilet and floors.

And one of the nice things about installing your own toilet is you can do this the next time your tube of toothpaste is accidentally flushed:

toothpaste in toilet

This was my fault. Don’t ask how it happened.

Our next step was to rent a giant dumpster and begin the demolition phase of the remodel. My mom and I ripped out baseboards and doors. We even took a sledge hammer to the “addition” in the back.

Tearing out baseboards

Ripping out baseboards in the very yellow living room/dining room.

Ripping out the addition

Bye bye addition. Our insurance company considered it a hazard. It had to go. Right away.

Taking down the roof

My husband and dad taking down the roof.

So we lived without baseboards, doors, a functional kitchen and a tiled shower and tackled the remodel room by room.

kitchen cabinets

Kitchen demo. Tearing out cabinets and tile backsplash.

No kitchen cabinets

Everything was gutted and then the sink was propped up with 2 x 4s. There was a full wall between the kitchen and dining room that we tore down to make a half wall instead. The full wall was where the stove is in this picture.

The fridge back in the kitchen

The stove and sink were switched, so that the stove was against the main wall now and the sink was against the half wall. And the fridge was finally out of the dining room!

repaired walls and paint chips

Here the walls have been repaired and you can see the half wall that was created. And, of course, all our test paint spots are scattered about.

kitchen almost finished

Almost finished! It still didn’t have drawer pulls and we hadn’t replaced the back door yet, but you get the idea.

sink

A view of the sink and half wall that now opens into the dining room.

This all took multiple trips to Home Depot, usually in the same day, because it’s nearly impossible to get everything you need in one trip. And of course lots of caffeine, tolerance and faith.

One of the last projects we tackled was stripping off the paint from the addition.

paint picking

This was back breaking and time consuming, not to mention toxic. It was probably the worst part of the remodel.

It took us about to a year to complete the remodel and we walked away still in love. We even got married a little over halfway through the process. And now, when I look back at the pictures, it’s strange, but I miss those days a little bit. It was exhilarating taking on new and daunting tasks. And the thrill of completing something you’re proud of can’t be beat.

Hmmm… Could another remodel be in our future?? Are we up to the task again? I don’t know. It is nice having heat and countertops you aren’t squeamish about touching and walls with baseboards and stuff.

Living room

The once bright yellow living room/dining room decorated for Christmas.

bedroom

The master bedroom that is no longer Kermit the Frog green.

bathroom

The finished bathroom.

Kitchen today

Our kitchen today, decorated for Thanksgiving.

outside house

Our front yard with grass and flowers.

Our days were spent obsessing over paint colors, tile combinations, door styles, drawer pulls, and baseboard styles. Together we remained calm after we vetoed the 60th paint color tried in the kitchen. We managed to still love each other even if we couldn’t agree on whether the cabinets should have roll out shelves or not. Somehow we cooked delicious meals when our fridge was in the dining room and our sink was propped up by 2x4s.

And now I feel more attached to this house than anywhere else I’ve lived. It’s mine, ours. Something we created. And even if things didn’t turn out perfectly, I still consider it a success: there were zero trips to the ER for DIY related injuries, we learned tons about home maintenance and we confirmed that we could work as a team, even in the most (in my opinion) dire circumstances.

 

A new season, A new bird

When I was a kid, well, really until my late twenties, I knew a new season had arrived based on obvious clues:

CLUES FROM THE WEATHER

Spring: It’s going to stop snowing any day now. It has to. It can’t go from 78 and sunny one day, to 36 and dreary the next. Wait, yes it can (see fall weather).

spring snow

What spring looks like in Denver
(Image courtesy Warren Brown via Flickr)

Summer: Someone please find me a shade tree. STAT. I think my skin is melting off.

I thought an image of my skin melting would be too icky, so I used this pic instead.

I thought an image of my skin melting would be too icky, so I used this pic instead.
(Image courtesy Steve Hankin via Flickr)

Fall: Uh, oh. It’s gonna get cold. Any day now. And it will happen like this: Monday – 70 degrees, Tuesday – 64, Wednesday – 72. Maybe winter won’t come? Thursday – 74. Friday – 69. Saturday 28 degrees! HA! Take that beautiful fall weather!

Denver Snow

How I see fall and winter in Denver. (Like I’ve said before, I do exaggerate sometimes)

Winter: Did someone move Colorado to the North Pole when I wasn’t looking? *Reference same picture as above*

CLUES BASED ON THE SCHOOL YEAR

Fall: Crap school is starting. How many weeks until my next break?

back to school

Image courtesy USAG – Humphreys via Flickr

Winter: At least we have two weeks off for Christmas. And they won’t expect us to do any work the two weeks before either. It’s like a whole month off!

advent calendar

How a kid sees the month of December
(Courtesy Rene MT via Flickr)

Spring: A week-long break for what? I don’t know. Just to celebrate spring? I’ll take it.

spring break

Image via Daniel Ramirez via Flickr

Summer: Utter and complete, joyous freedom!

(Courtesy Craigfinlay via Flickr)

(Courtesy Craigfinlay via Flickr)

CLUES FROM TV COMMERICALS

Spring: In three months I’ll be able to ditch the mittens and go to the pool and have water gun fights just like the folks on TV. Until then it’s just cruel to show people having summer fun. Oh and don’t forget to do your Christmas shopping.

Pool

Image courtesy David Goehring via Flickr

Summer: Why are you already advertising notebooks and colored pencils? It’s July for crying out loud. I hate you Wal-Mart. And by the way, school supplies can make great Christmas presents too.

Colored pencils

Image courtesy Luxt Designs via Flickr

Fall: It’s Christmas time! Really? I thought it was the end of October. All right, put away the scarecrow and pumpkins. I didn’t really want to give thanks anyway.

Christmas in October

Image courtesy Jo Naylor via Flickr

Winter: Now that Christmas is over, there are still more things to buy. And they’ll be on sale. Really, you should just start shopping for Christmas now.

Christmas ad

Image courtesy e r j k p r u n c z y k via Flickr

Now that I’m a bit older, I notice more than the clues above. I notice the little things–small details that my self-absorbed, youthful self never noticed. It’s funny how once the world stops revolving around you, you notice more of the world around you.

In the spring, I never noticed the first shoots of green emerging from the earth, or the first ladybug babies snacking on aphids. My younger self only noticed the obvious. It was getting warmer and lighter.

In the summer, I never noticed how certain perennials thrived in the 100 degree heat, while others wilted and browned. My younger self noticed it was hot.

In the fall, I saw the leaves turn and knew it was getting colder.

But now I have a new way of knowing fall is here. In addition to the fact that it’s cold, sometimes snowy, and apparently already Christmas, I know summer is behind us because of a small migratory bird. A bird that I never noticed before. In all honesty, I didn’t notice many birds when I was young, and probably could have only identified five that lived in Colorado.

But as I grew older things such as birds started to interest me, so I studied up on all the little guys that frequented my feeder.  The one I’m talking about today is the Dark-eyed Junco.

Snow Junco

These little guys arrive in Denver every fall and hang out under our feeder or our shrubs happily eating millet or whatever else they scrounge up. And then, one day in  spring, they all take flight and head north or to the mountains for the summer.

Last Monday, the first teeny, tiny snowflakes fell in the city. It was the same day I noticed the first pair of Juncos in the backyard.

That night I asked my husband to guess who I saw in the backyard. With some prompting (they come every winter, I’m talking about a bird, with dark eyes and their name begins with J) he finally got it.

My younger self would have relied on the snowflakes to know fall was here and winter was coming. Today, I don’t need the flakes. The Juncos are fair warning.

What are your favorite clues the seasons are changing? Do you notice things you never used to? Are you finished with your Christmas shopping? Do you exaggerate how cold or hot it is? Are you secretly happy when the back to school commercials begin? Please, share your thoughts!