#5TF: Great Outdoors

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 8 – August 12 – 18, 2017

If you happen to be in the path of Monday’s eclipse then you’ve no doubt noticed the rampant commercialization of this rare astronomical phenomenon. We found out firsthand when we went in search of the special viewing glasses that are needed to watch the event. We read on Facebook that Walmart had the glasses for $1 so one evening we made our way over to pick up a few pairs, only to find that yes indeed, Walmart does have Eclipse glasses. They have both shot glasses and drinking glasses (along with koozies, t-shirts, and hats) but no viewing glasses. In fact, our town of 35,734 people has somehow managed to scoop up every single pair of free or cheap eclipse viewing glasses offered by the public library, Chamber of Commerce, various businesses, and yes, even Walmart. And not always for their own use, mind you. Today, I listed an old cell phone on OfferUp and saw a few folks selling ISO Eclipse glasses for a mere $10 per pair.

Our local paper has warned that we should not go out this weekend and especially on Monday if we can help it. They want to make sure all the tourists who are supposed to flock here for the “Gallatin Eclipse Encounter” have plenty of places to park and as little traffic as possible during their stay. We have lots to offer them too – a Sip ‘N Stroll of the downtown area, a Bluegrass Jam, and an all-day party in the park. I’d love to know what the economic impact of this 2 minute 40 second event will be for our city and how we’ll use that money to better our community (hint, hint politicians…though I doubt you’ll ever see this post anyway).

Now onward and upward to better things…

One thing I really enjoyed this week was car camping in Ocoee, TN and waterwater rafting the next day. (And by car camping, I mean we literally slept in the car!) You can read all about our fun adventure here: Our High Country Adventure

I am grateful that we made it out of Deliverance country alive. Just kidding, it wasn’t that bad. But winding our way up a gravel one-lane switchback road sure made for a very scary experience and arriving at the end of it to find ourselves hiking down a narrow ledge alongside some strange (and very chatty) folks in flip-flops didn’t help matters much either. I am not sure how they made it down at all. We had on our best hiking shoes and we stumbled more than a few times ourselves.

Angie says that she’s grateful that we did not have to go to the grocery store before or during this trip and that the entire weekend only cost us $44, including the rafting trip.

I need to let go of the notion that we’re ever going to be able to walk outside our house without getting eaten alive by some sort of bug. We won our battle against the mosquitoes by using a combo of creamy baby lotion and citronella spray but the chiggers at our campsite outnumbered us 1,000 to 1. Poor Angie got the worst of it. Almost a week later and she still looks like she has the measles.

We made progress on our hiking/walking goal, adding 12 miles to our tally during our 2-day outing. We also canned 3 more quarts of tomatoes and made great strides in meal-prep this week. We spent Monday afternoon chopping and prepping ingredients for a veggie soup that we shared with my Mom and Ticky on Tuesday and a squash lasagna that lasted for 2 dinners. The few hours of effort we put in that day more than paid off during the week when we had meals ready to go after a long day of mowing or playing outside with the little one. I think this coming week, we may do a pot of beans and rice and have variations of Latin American dishes for the week (like tacos, arroz con pollo, and veggie quesadillas).

The funniest thing that happened this week is really too embarrassing to be shared. Let’s just say, our campsite was a long way from the potty and sometimes your hear really strange noises when you’re attempting to pee in the woods at night (like owls or perhaps your partner laughing at you for some still unknown reason). Thank goodness I restocked the wet wipes in our car!

A close runner up to this incident was probably the look on our faces when we realized we were headed straight uphill on a gravel road in a car with a 1.4 L 4 cylinder engine. To put that in perspective, the Jeep Wrangler that passed us about a mile before the “terrifying switchback” probably had an engine 3 times that size and it was still having a hard time pulling the hill. After what seemed like forever, we somehow managed to make it to the top – to the main road – the road that we could have taken to get to our destination instead…if only our GPS wasn’t possessed by demons!

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Rethinking our Dining Room

Our dining room is the default staging area for nearly all activities that take place in our home. When we pick up our CSA basket each week, it goes on the table to be sorted. When we’re canning or freezing, the table becomes an extra work space. Going camping? The table and floor get filled with supplies to be loaded into the car. Taking out recycling? Yes, the dining room is our sorting facility.

Our apartment is 758 square feet, obviously designed by someone who never actually lived in one of these units. It’s arranged in a very awkward way, with no open floor space in the galley kitchen whatsoever and an abundance of extra space in the dining room. In other words, while our 1-bedroom apartment will only sleep 2 (maybe 3) people, the dining room could easily accommodate a table for 8. Because the space is so large and happens to be the first place you come to when opening the front door, it becomes the catch-all area.Β Sometimes I look around this room and think we’re not really minimalists at all. So much clutter in one room, how on Earth can we call ourselves such??

That’s when I have to remind myself that evidence of an active life is not the same as clutter. If our closets were so full that the camping gear had to stay in the dining room permanently or if we never sorted the mail or other miscellaneous items that enter our home on a daily basis, then I might relinquish our claim to minimalism. But that’s not the case. Our dining room just happens to be the “production hub” for this business we call life.

Behold the production hub:

The camping gear bag sits by the freezer waiting for the tent to dry outside and the sleeping bags to get washed. Our new modem (inside the giant box from Comcast) awaits installation.
Tomatoes in various stages of ripening sit on the table along with a fan and utensils that go back in the camping gear bag.
Our empty CSA baskets, a box for recycling, a flower pot that needs to go back to my mom, and 2 new oil funnels that need to go out to the lawnmower shed…all patiently awaiting their time to leave.

I once read a blog post (though I forget where) about alternative uses for the rooms in your home. Using your living room for a bedroom because it has a cozier feel or setting up an office in the laundry room were some of the examples given. At the time, I remember thinking about our dining room and how I might be able to use it as my office. But this is pretty much what my office consists of:

And it fits perfectly in the bedroom, near the window so I at least have a view.

My sister once used her dining room as an extra bedroom when her mother-in-law moved in. I’m not willing to go there (as I know of several folks who’d immediately take up residence in the new room) but there has to be a way we can maximize usage of this space without it always being in such disarray.

A few of the ideas for this room that have crossed my mind include:

  • Adding a shelf or another set of coat hooks above the freezer to store our CSA baskets between pickups.
  • Putting an empty laundry basket in the hall closet to serve as a temporary home for things that need to be put away but are “in waiting” (for example, the bivy sack that’s sitting on the table waiting for the sleeping bag to come out of the dryer).
  • Creating a permanent recycling station along the wall near the door. This would have the added benefit of freeing up space in the laundry room for storing CSA baskets.

The one thing I don’t want to do is create more clutter catchers. Every improvement needs to be just that…an improvement. And we do have meals in this space (when we’re not able to eat outside on the patio) so it still needs to function as a dining area.Β Do you have any suggestions? What are some of the creative ways you use space in your home?