A Work in Progress

Every morning, when I get home from driving William to school, I get out of my car, start, walking toward the house, and then stop and stand staring like an idiot at my garden.  My neighbors probably think I’m crazy (actually, they already have plenty of other reasons to think that).
What am I doing?  Well, to be honest, I’m admiring it, because it’s pretty and I’m just a little proud of what I’ve accomplished in just one year.  But more than that, I’m analyzing it, thinking about what needs to be moved around, what I’ll add later in the season or next year, what’s too tall, what was a bad idea.
If I were a methodical gardener I would have made a plan before I started.  I didn’t.  In late winter I downloaded some kind of planning grid thingie and got bored after a few minutes.  If I were a methodical gardener, I would have properly amended my soil.  I didn’t.  Instead, I dig out lumps of clay and rock, throw in a handful of potting soil, and hope for the best.  Sometimes I don’t even bother with the potting soil.  The rocks should help with drainage, right?  If I were a methodical gardener, I would have investigated how big the plants would get before I planted them.  I would have put little tags next to them to say what they are.  I might even have kept a garden journal.  Instead, I’m like: “This is the pink-blue-purple side of the garden, so let’s put any pink, purple, or blue things we like over here wherever we can find room for them!”  People ask the name of a particular plant and I say, “It might be salvia.  Or maybe sage.  Who knows?”  I can look on google images if I ever really need to know, right?
What kind of gardener am I?  A lazy gardener, clearly, which is why I plant mostly perennials.  Some day my work will be done, right?  And a lucky one, judging by my lack of effort and the passable results.
The photos below are from what we call the “hot” garden, where I attempt to plant only things that are orange, yellow, and white.  There are also red roses here (about which more further down) but I don’t want any more red things.  Why the color scheme?  Because the first summer we were here, the nice gardening lady across the street gave me a bunch of lily bulbs and some other perennial thing, which I just haphazardly stuck over here because I had no plan whatsoever and they turned out to be yellow.  So.
 
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The lilies aren’t blooming yet but you can see where they are in the picture below.  Those other yellow things, which are really tall, will be right behind them, unless the shade from the roses kills them.
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Let’s talk about the roses, shall we?  If you know anything at all about roses, then you can see that’s a climbing rose.  If you know anything about gardens, you’ll know that only an idiot would put a climbing rose in the middle of a flower bed.  I am happy to say I was not that idiot.  But I also don’t know much about roses, so I didn’t know that this was going to happen when I let it (it being basically a couple of thorny twigs when I started this) stay there.  It’s outgrown the trellis I put in place last year–in fact it is pulling the trellis out of the ground and leaning forward.  It stubbornly refuses to get blackspot like every other rose I’ve ever grown and instead is vigorous and healthy and growing like kudzu.  I want to get an arbor thing to cross the walkway in front of it, and maybe also attach a trellis to the porch overhang behind it.  But do you know how much arbors cost, y’all?
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Below we have the mailbox garden.  Gotta have one of those, don’t we?  The daylilies were already there–Stella D’Oro, I believe (see, I do know something!).  There is also one lone gigantic lily that looks kind of stupid there all by itself, but I can’t kill healthy plants, so it will stay.  The red plant is a mandevilla which my neighbor gave me for my birthday.  The pot said it was good to plant by your mailbox and who am I to argue?  You might also notice a variety of herbs in this picture.  Yes, this is my herb garden and we used the herbs to cook all through the winter even.  The basil dried right there on the stalk.  More laziness that paid off!
 
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This side has mint.  All varieties of mint.  And yes, I am aware of what mint does, and it’s already doing it, but I don’t really care because it smells good.
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Now here’s the “cool” side of the garden and I’m probably going to post too many pictures because this is my favorite part and I just can’t leave any of them out!
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Please excuse the long grass at the edges because 1) My lawn mower is (still) broken and 2) I’m not finished yet.  There won’t ever be a clearly defined border at the edge because the eventual plan is for this side to take over the whole front yard, doing away with its crappy veneer of grass over clay a couple of feet every year, depending on my time, energy, and financial situation.
 
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My garden doesn’t look like the other gardens in this neighborhood.  That’s what John said, and I consider that a compliment, because who really needs another boring suburban garden, all symmetrical and defined by clumps of liriope with measured distances between them?  We are going for the wild look here.
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If you want to read more of my gardening posts, visit these links:
In the Garden
In the Garden II
 

It All Boils Down to This

It’s New Years Day and y’all know what that means, right?  Black-eyed peas and greens, at least for us Southerners.

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As long as I can remember, my mother forced us to eat at least one bite of black-eyed peas each New Years Day, “For luck,” she said.  Later I learned that greens are also required, if you want to make money in the new year.  And who doesn’t want that, right?

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Luckily in this house a majority (read:  everyone but the little people) like either the peas, the greens, or both.

I’d never realized until this year that this tradition is strictly a Southern one.  I looked up its origin this afternoon while I was cooking and learned that it started post-Civil War, when supposedly those affected by Sherman’s March to the Sea were left with precious little to eat except for the black-eyed peas which the Union soldiers (who called them “cow peas”) assumed were only good for fodder for the Southerners’ long-gone cattle.  The erstwhile Confederates grew strong again on this minimalist yet healthy diet, and the foods eventually morphed from a generic “new beginnings” meal to one symbolizing future luck and prosperity.

As I perhaps have mentioned, I am an English major so I found additional meaning in today’s meal.

Just look at these collard greens, y’all.

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I don’t know if you can tell but that’s a LOT of greens. (And for only .99 at Kroger, too!)  It’s three enormous bunches which were too big for the plastic produce bag and took up the entire bottom shelf of my refrigerator.  It probably took me an hour to wash and rip them up so I could cook them.  The picture of them in the pan?  That was less than half of them.

Yet after ten minutes cooking, we were left with this:

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Yes, that’s what they boiled down to.  So that’s the source of that saying! I thought, cleverly, to myself.

But I also really did think, and announcedto my husband, that I am going to try to apply the lesson of the greens to any situations (I won’t say problems yet) that arise this year.  Whatever big tangled things I have to deal with, I’m going to envision them as a big mess of greens that haven’t been cooked yet.  I’m going to know in advance that really there’s just a little kernel at the heart of whatever it is that I really have to deal with.  Before I get all worked up and confused and overwhelmed, I’m going to think about what it all boils down to.

Happy 2014 to you!

I Fell off the Wagon . . .

The NaBloPoMo wagon, that is.  But, y’all, this week has been brutal.
First there was the all-nighter.  Jake got his paper done.  Emily bagged on us around 3 a.m.  I stayed up and up and up.  For those of you who have heard me rant about helicopter parenting, all I can say is that sometimes even big kids need their mothers, and Jake needed me that night.
Furthermore, any of you who do legal work will no doubt cringe when I mention that I also had discovery requests to fulfill the following day.  So I was working on that the following morning while continuing to help Jake with the paper.  I did not get to finally collapse until close to 4 p.m.  I slept for 17 hours.
This blissful unconsciousness put a serious dent into Thanksgiving prep time, however.  Normally I would have at least shopped for the food on Tuesday.  But that had to wait until Wednesday and I did not get down to serious cooking business until close to 7 p.m.  Brining the bird, cooking the giblets, and preparing the sweet potatoes and the mashed potatoes took until about 2 a.m.  Six hours later I was back up to cover the turkey in bacon and get it into the oven.  Then I moved onto the pies, and in between those major tasks handled all the little details that those of you who have hosted 18 people or so more Thanksgiving dinner won’t need me to explain.
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The fruits of all this labor were delicious, and as they say, a good time was had by all.  But after they all went home, it was back at it for me to clean up until around eleven (well worth it to come downstairs this morning to a clean kitchen instead of a mess).  Whenever I made the mistake of sitting down for a rest I wasn’t sure I could get back up again!  I finally treated myself to a long-anticipated soak in the spa tub and I thought I might just have to spend the night in there.
Mark my words, y’all:  I am NOT doing this again next year!  Next year you are going to be reading a post about how we went to Mass and then next door to the Crown Plaza for their Thanksgiving buffet.  You heard it here first.

In the Garden

I’m tired and still have work to do this evening, so I’m going to begin a two-parter:  mostly pictures of my garden today, and then a post about gardening tomorrow.  I hadn’t seriously gardened in a long time–years, really–but this year I have been trying to do more things that make me happy.  I’d forgotten how happy gardening made me until I started doing it again!
Here’s my garden right now, with a few things added for winter, and a few others still blooming despite at least two hard frosts.
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Here are some shots of how it looked when I was first getting  started.
Garden 36Garden 39Garden 37And finally, a few of how it appeared at its height.
Garden 6Garden 7Garden 10When we moved in, which was the end of September 2011, aside from the shrubs at either end of the two front beds, some mums, and a rosebush (really not a BUSH, but a climber that has no business being there) the beds were empty.  Well, except for the weeds that began to flourish as soon as Spring arrived.
Our nice neighbor across the street likes to garden, and she gave me those lilies and the tall yellow things (don’t know what they are called).  That was the only thing I planted until this year.  So everything else was added from May through October.  Not bad, huh?
What IS bad is the dirt.  As you can see, the depth of the left bed is limited by the walkway, but I’ve been extending the limits of the right one all summer.  It’s now to the point where my boys have to dig all the holes for me, because apparently the way the builders prepared the soil was to dump a bunch of gravel down–sometimes concrete too!–and throw a little dirt over it.
More tomorrow on WHY I garden, HOW I garden, and (to the extent I remember) WHAT I planted.

Sanctuary Redux

I promised a while back I would post pictures of my new bedroom furniture once it was in place but then Christmas came and you know how that goes.  Anyway, the lighting in my room is not the best but you can get a decent idea in the pictures below:
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There’s a cedar chest at the foot of the bed that matches as well, and there’s another chair.  That’s not the bed that goes with it–that one is a double bed and too small for us–but the one from the set we have harmonizes well enough, don’t you think?
And yes, once the old stuff was out I was okay, and I’m used to it, and I still get that good feeling when I walk into my room. 🙂

Fire or Ice?

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. 
   –    Robert Frost

I love that poem so much that I feel really guilty for using it as an intro to a post about . . . Wait for it . . . fighting over the thermostat.
Y’all, I know that this is one of those pathetic First World Problems, but do you have this problem too?
Here’s the thing:  for the first time since we’ve moved from apartments to houses, we have a house with a fully functional HVAC system.  It can be WHATEVER TEMPERATURE WE WANT, any time of year!  How novel!
Our first house was warm enough in the winter, I think, unless you got too near a door or a window, through which icy drafts would blow.  And the air worked well enough downstairs.  Our upstairs bedroom would have been stuffy if not for a little extra help in the form of a window unit which was about thirty years old (I swear–I was 27 when we moved in there and that thing was definitely older looking than the ones we had when I was a little girl!) and loud as all get out.  It wasn’t super-cold but it stirred the air around enough to do the trick.
Then we moved to the Victorian house, originally meant to be heated, I suppose, by the five fireplaces which were now blocked up, and cooled by the enormous windows which were mostly painted shut, and once opened had to be propped that way with building blocks because the mechanisms were broken. (We found one of the window weights in the closet.  Have you ever seen one?  They are VERY heavy.  I read a book once in which one was used as a murder weapon–very effective.)  Anyway, I doubt that our modern methods were much of an improvement.  In the winter, the temperature stayed at 64, no matter how high we turned up the heat.  We got used to being cold, but it was hard on any guests we had.  And we paid about $900 a month for the privilege.  What with the high ceilings and the trees, we did better in the summer time, but on the hottest days the AC couldn’t get the temperature below 80.
I’ve written at great length about the intensity of our summertime suffering in our next house.  I suppose it was foreshadowing, although the fire wasn’t caused by spontaneous combustion.  The two upstairs floors were not air conditioned.  AT ALL.  Our landlord provided us with two portable units, but if we tried to use them at the same time, we blew a fuse.  So Emily got a fan, John and I got the AC (which had a drawer that would fill with water that had to be emptied every two hours, all night long), and the other kids got to sleep peacefully in the air-conditioned basement.  In the winter, we had ceiling heat, which I actually loved, except it only worked in some rooms (sorry, Emily.).
And now?  We have two units, one for the upstairs, and one that serves the main level and the basement.  They work like a dream.  And the bills are lower than we’ve ever seen, even though the house is bigger by far.  So what is the problem?  I guess that depends on who you ask but this is my blog so I’m going to say John.
The kids wouldn’t dare mess with the thermostats–in fact I doubt they know how they work!  And John has ignored the downstairs one so far.  But he won’t leave the upstairs one–which is in our bedroom–alone.  It’s not so bad if he goes to bed first because then I can fix it before I get in bed.  But if he goes later I wake up in a pool of sweat, especially if Lorelei has come into bed with us and I have spent the night effectively as a sandwich filling.
See,  John just won’t understand how thermostats work.  If it’s really hot out, he thinks turning the thermostat down will help somehow.  If it’s cold outside, he starts turning it up.  He doesn’t seem to understand that once you decide what temperature you think the house should be, YOU SET THE THERMOSTAT AND NEVER TOUCH IT AGAIN.
Another problem is that there only seems to be so much heat that can be shared between the two of us.  If I am hot, John is cold, and vice versa.  Always.
So I have determined that the proper summertime thermostat setting is 76, and the wintertime setting is 66.  That’s because I believe that we SHOULD be warmer in summer and colder in winter, just like I think we should consume strawberries and corn on the cob in the summer and switch to root vegetables and apples in the winter.   And I WILL keep those settings, if I have to explain it to John 100 MORE times and turn it back down 20 times a day.

Haunted House of Dreams?

So far I have posted every day in November and have had no difficulty finding inspiration.  Truth be told, I have whole pages of ideas for blog posts, and new ones float in and out of my head all day every day!  Some I remember and some I forget; some I scrawl down notes for and come back to later only to have lost interest or have forgotten exactly what angle I had in mind.
Tonight, though, I am exhausted.  Falling asleep at the computer exhausted.  And I have to write something before I can sleep, so I’m going to cheat just a little and use the helpful prompt provided by BlogHer for this day:  Would you buy your dream house if the price was right BUT you also were told it was inhabited by ghosts?
Short answer:  Yes.  Because I don’t believe in ghosts.
The house we live in now is only five years old.  There’s not much of a chance that there would be ghosts here in any case.  If the ruins of our last home still stood, I imagine they would be haunted in a sort of metaphorical way by the ashes of our belongings and the memories of our interrupted life there, but not by white-sheeted phantoms.
The house we lived in before that ought to have been haunted.  It was built in 1889, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had died there in all those years since.  It had an old-fashioned attic and a dungeon-like basement that were perfect for ghosts.  But I never felt frightened there or sensed any sort of supernatural presence.
I have kind of a thing about knowing the history of the places where I live.  I knew who built our Victorian home and who owned the land before it was built.  I knew the names of everyone who ever lived there.  I made a map of several blocks of the street and wrote the dates that each house was built, and I knew about many that were long gone.  I also take an interest in the history of Knoxville.  I will write more about this in another time, but to someone who is aware of history, the ghosts of the past are everywhere, and those are the only kinds of ghosts I believe in.

Pumpkins Pumpkins Everywhere!


Yes, it’s that time of year–or really, it’s slightly after that time of year, since I couldn’t find a carving-sized pumpkin for love or money the night before Halloween, which is when I attempted to buy them.  But that meant I ended up with several smaller ones instead.
Now, growing up I had no idea you could do anything with a pumpkin except carve a face in it.  Later my ideas expanded to include using them decorations in one of those ubiquitous fall displays.  But at some point it occurred to me that the pumpkin in a can had to come from somewhere, right?  So I consulted The Joy of Cooking and learned how to roast a pumpkin.
The roasting is easy, the pureeing much less so.  It may not be worth it to those who like to do things the easy way, but once I learn how to do things the hard way (think rolling out pie crusts by hand) I find it hard to go back to my old, convenience-oriented ways!
Another thing I never knew you could do is roast and eat the seeds from your pumpkin.  Now that’s a Halloween night tradition for us.

All of this is a preface to this, my first-ever cooking post!  Since it’s my recipe, of course it won’t be easy.  It takes several preliminary steps to get to the tasty result, but you can skip the hard parts if you want.
Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients:

2.5 c. flour

1 t. baking soda

1 stick butter (PLEASE use real butter!)

1 c. sugar

.5 c. packed brown sugar

2 eggs

.5 c. roasted and pureed pumpkin

2 t. vanilla

.5 c. roasted and salted pumpkin seeds, chopped fine

1 12-oz. bag milk chocolate chips

You will want to do these first two preliminary parts the day before you want to make the cookies!  Or buy a can of pumpkin and a bag of seeds.  Just don’t tell me about it!
First, roast a pumpkin.  A small one is fine.  Here’s how you do it:
Cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out its insides; reserve seeds.  No need to be too anal; I am lazy and leave a string or two behind and never have a problem.
Grease a cookie sheet (just a spray with Pam or its generic equivalent, if you are me, will do).
Place the two halves, cut side down, on your cookie sheet.
Cook at 350 degrees for about an hour.  You will know you are finished when the pumpkin halves start to collapse a little bit.
Remove from oven and let cool.  Peel off the skin and put the flesh away until you are ready to puree it.  You can freeze it for just about forever if you wish.
Now, attend to your seeds.  You should rinse them in a colander and dry them with paper towels.  The dryer you can get them the quicker they will roast.
Grease another cookie sheet and spread the seeds thereon.  The thinner you can spread them the shorter the roasting time will be.  Put them in a 200 degree oven.
Check the seeds every half hour or so.  At some point you will want to put some butter on them and some salt.  Stir them around when you check them.  You can add more butter and salt when you check them–that’s up to your taste.
Now I cannot tell you how long this is going to take, because it varies.  I cooked mine for probably four hours.  Anyway, when they are crunchy but not burned, remove them from the oven and put them aside.
When they are cool, chop them up in your food processor or blender.  Or you could use them whole; it’s up to your family’s taste.  Mine were more like meal than seeds when I was finished.
By now your pumpkin has cooled off–it’s had four hours after all–so you can puree it.  I imagine a food processor would make this easy but I don’t have one so I use a blender, which is hard.  I usually cheat and add a little liquid to make it easier.  This time I used eggnog for this, which gave it a nice flavor.  And you’ll be using beaters on it too, so if you get frustrated doing this remember it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Take out what you need for the recipe and put the rest away for another day.
Here comes the easier part.
Cream the butter and sugar.  The proportions are strange because we are replacing part of the fat with the pumpkin, so don’t worry if you can’t get it perfectly creamy.  I am a lazy cook on details like this and have found that seriously it doesn’t matter much, no matter what your mother told you.
Let your kids crack the eggs and then add them and beat again.  And the vanilla, then the soda, beating after each.  Next the pumpkin.  Then the flour.  Then stir in the nuts and the chips.

Isn’t it a pretty color?  The batter is not going to have the texture of a typical chocolate chip cookie because of the pumpkin.  Don’t worry; it will be okay.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Drop spoonfuls of batter on your cookie sheet.   These stuck to my dark cookie sheet but not the shiny one, so you might want to grease yours if they are dark.  These don’t spread much at all, so you can factor that in to how many you put on each sheet.
Cook each batch for ten minutes, maybe longer, till they are a little brown on top.  They are not going to be as brown as typical chocolate chip cookies.  And they are going to be a bit pouffy, so they are probably more done than you think they are.  More than twelve minutes is probably going to be too long.

I was pleased and proud and my family loved them!  Be sure to tell me if you make them!

Reading Aloud: It's Not Just for the Kids

David Copperfield.
Gone with the Wind.
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The Lord of the Rings.
Dracula.
The Lords of Discipline.
The Hobbit.
The Dark is Rising series.
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The Chronicles of Narnia.
A Tale of Two Cities.
Little House on the Prairie.
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What do the above books have in common (besides being awesome, of course!)?
They are all books that I have read aloud in their entirety.  This might make you think I am a great mother, carrying on the bedtime reading well past the early childhood years.  You’d be wrong.
Because I did not read these books to my kids–I read them to my husband.
I don’t remember how it started, but way back when we were first married–maybe even before–I started reading aloud to John, sometimes at bedtime, often on long car trips (there were many in those days), and even just sitting in the living room, when we got so absorbed in a book we just didn’t want to stop.
I picked the books–favorites of mine that I wanted to share.  Sometimes I picked authors–like Dickens–that John was doubtful about, just so I could prove him wrong. 🙂
We continued this even after we had kids.  I can remember sitting out on the balcony of our last apartment, reading David Copperfield and feeling sad at the end of the nearly 1,000 pages, because we were going to miss the characters we had spent so much time with.
I remember sitting in the living room of our first house, reading Gone with the Wind by the light of the Christmas tree, and hearing little Emily in the hallway, listening in.  It was a great way to spend time together, doing something special without leaving the house, which would have required a babysitter.
What I can’t remember is exactly when we stopped, or why.  It was probably about ten years ago.  Maybe we got too busy, having four kids and lots of outside activities.  Maybe it was too noisy on car trips and we had to focus on amusing the kids instead of ourselves.  Maybe we were so tired at bedtime that we just fell asleep.  For sure, part of it was that Emily got old enough to babysit, and we were able from then until recently to leave the house whenever we wanted to spend time together without the kids.
But now that has changed.  The big boys are still at home, but not much.  They have active social lives that keep them out of the house most of the time on weekends.  If we want to be assured of a babysitter for a special occasion, like a wedding or an anniversary, we have to make a plan with them in advance (because we are not THOSE people, who expect their teenage kids to take care of their little siblings no matter what–we always ask.).
William is 11–old enough, in our opinion and his, to stay alone at home for an hour or two, in the daytime hours.  But he is not old enough to be responsible for seven-year-old Lorelei, day or night.
So we are spending more time at home in the evening than we have in years.  And it occurred to me that reading aloud would be a much nicer way to connect than playing on our separate computers all night.  I’ve been wanting to read Jane Eyre to John for some time.  Then Wuthering Heights.  I can’t wait!
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[UPDATE:  I’m embarrassed to admit that we couldn’t get through one chapter.  We can’t stay awake while reading in bed anymore.  However, I’ve gotten back into the reading aloud groove in order to help William with his school English assignments.  In the past year I’ve read him War of the Worlds, Frankenstein, and Unbroken.  And right now I’m reading The House with a Clock in Its Walls to the whole family.]

The Things That Really Matter

Closet space.  Is there ever enough of it?  There were next to no closets in our Victorian house.  We purchased three armoires from Myrtle’s Mess for the bedrooms, and crammed them so full the doors would barely close. (John’s enormous oak armoire is one of three pieces of furniture salvaged from the fire.)
So we were excited when we moved into what the kids now call “the burnt down house” to distinguish it from “the old house” and “our first house.”  I had a walk-in (or at least “step-in”) closet and John appropriated the closet in the office for his clothes.  (Teddy still had to use the armoire, which is why it was in the basement and survived the flames; the other two were stored in the garage.)
And we crammed those closets full.  Mine had clothes in several sizes, even some things that were twenty years old.  Some I hoped to wear again one day, some had purely sentimental value.  There were old pocketbooks, and scarves, and lots of shoes.   And of course I had a dresser crammed full of socks and underwear and t-shirts.  And an overflowing laundry basket with the clothes I wore most of the time, which never seemed to get put away.
It sounds strange to say that the timing of Grandma’s death was a blessing, but it was.  Not only did it probably save our lives, since we were all out of the house when it exploded into flames, but it meant that we all had several days’ worth of clothes with us (and our computers!).  The clothes I took to Baltimore (and wouldn’t you know I had tried to pack as light as possible) were all that I had.
It didn’t take long before our kids had more clothes than we knew what to do with.  Family had already started buying things for Jake and Teddy before John and I and the little kids made it back to Knoxville.  Donations poured in from near and far on a daily basis.  Lorelei ended up with a wardrobe fit for a little princess.
John did not do badly either.  Thanks to my cousin Melissa, who works in a medical practice, he ended up with a closet full of doctors’ dress clothes (which are pretty much the same as attorneys’ dress clothes!).  She also gave took him on a shopping trip in Uncle Charlie‘s closet.  He did have to buy a couple of new suits, but he soon had more clothes than he started with!
I had a harder time.  Much of what was donated either did not fit or did not suit me.  And although I had some gift cards, beyond replacing absolute necessities I never seemed to make the time to shop.
When we went to look at houses to rent, realtors would talk up the storage aspect and I would just laugh, because we had nothing left to store.  Our new house sports a walk-in closet so big you could hang out in it (and in fact sometimes I do read in there at night!).  Until my last trip to Walmart (when I added about three outfits) this is what my side of the closet looked like:

I have a dresser that actually has EMPTY DRAWERS.  I don’t own enough underwear to make it through the week.
Now this is not a pity-party or an attempt to solicit gift cards.  🙂  I held onto a Christmas gift card for several months before I finally went shopping.  The point is that I have been trying to sort out in my own head what I have learned in the past year, what it all means.  Because if something like that happens to you and you don’t at least get some wisdom from it, that would really suck, right?
So one thing I am learning is what THINGS (in the literal sense of the word) matter to me.  And clearly clothes don’t rank high on that list.  It’s probably no surprise to anyone to find out what does, what I already have more of than I can use, what I accumulate more of weekly.