Stuff. Want. Need. Part.

Not unlike much of the rest of the first world, I have too much stuff.

I have spent quite a bit of time in recent years thinking about buying, reorganizing, sorting, consigning, selling, donating, moving and cleaning stuff.   Household items, clothing, furniture, textiles, gadgets,  and some things that aren’t quite right, that I picked up at a yard sale or a clearance rack anyhow because they were too good to pass up, looked sort of interesting at the time, and still had plenty of serviceable life left, even though didn’t really need it.

For that matter, I don’t need anything aside from food, water, shelter, and arguably love.  I could go on about needs, but you get the point.

This cycle of stuff management consumes an inordinate amount of time and brain capacity.  Busy, but unproductive, nonetheless.  I am not proud of that, but it is what it is.  I am working hard to change as I weed through all of it- bit by bit, drawer by drawer.

Part of me is quite obsessively neat, requiring everything to be in its proper place at all times.  Another part of me can handle dustballs and a few dishes soaking in the sink.   I guess that is the upside of my decidedly near-sightedness.   If the stuff is neatly arranged, and where I would like it to be, from afar without my glasses- I’m good with that… and the dust, well, if I can’t see it, it must not be there.

Once I put on my glasses or finish up reading an essay about minimalism I found online, I am in a near frenzy of tidying up and streamlining.

At heart and in mind, I want to be a minimalist- I like staying at hotels with just the bare bones of the essentials.  I like the order.  On the other hand, I enjoy visiting places with lots of  florals, pattern on pattern and complex color palettes.

In short, I need very little and sometimes I don’t get what I need, but what I want.  Of course, the opposite is also often true, it just doesn’t feel so good.  Too much of anything makes me feel as though I am suffocating and so weighed down.

There is a whole industry selling items to organize stuff, and then yet another, minimalist movement- books, videos, lectures- dedicated to the how to have less stuff which strikes me as complete irony to create stuff about getting rid of stuff.  No offense to Marie Kondo and others with a similar message- I just don’t get it.  Buy a book to tell you how to get rid of all of your other books?  Though I do admire the sensibility and message.

I am on a mission- use, enjoy, savor, but don’t save just in case, share it with someone else and let it go.

Off to the transfer station and donation center- have a load of stuff in the boot of my car.

Yet, there are some things I will never part with…

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Martha’s Vineyard

Living in eastern Massachusetts, I am in close proximity to bucolic Martha’s Vineyard and yet I don’t get there very often.  When I do go, I make promises to myself that I will return soon.

It really is quite perfect- an island – that alone makes it special – rural and natural with appealing architecture, stunning beaches, good food, art, books, music, trails, and a sense of calm even when jam-packed with tourists, day-trippers and summer visitors.

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Belfast, Maine

A charming, waterfront town on Penobscot Bay with a vibrant downtown, Belfast is walkable, comfortable and full of interesting architecture, art and history in a very relaxed, low key setting.

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I happened upon their Classic Small Boat show as a part of the Belfast Harbor Fest while visiting last August.

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Wouldn’t you want to get your fuel from a company that looked like this?

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And then…I discovered the Moonbat City Baking Company…with the most wonderful cinnamon rolls and croissants made by the welcoming master pastry chef owner, Michelle Berry, who graciously invited me to tour around as she spoke of her life changing move to Belfast as a baker, from her former career as a culinary arts instructor in the Boston area.

After spending some time there, I could easily see why one would enjoy living in Belfast.  It’s on my list.

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And…the view to Penobscot Bay…perfect.

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Maine sky

Just a remembrance of a beautiful evening in Maine-quintessential tall evergreens, deep blue light.

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Sunsets and thinking

Sunsets make me think.  It’s not that I don’t think during other hours of the day (phew), but the meditative process of watching the sun setting.  Another day gone.  Promises for tomorrow.

Firth of Forth sunset a few years ago…one of my all time favorite sunsets for thinking.

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Firth of Forth from Leith, Scotland 2012

Kitchen…many iterations

I am a chronic rearranger.  For as long as I can remember I have rearranged furniture, reorganized stuff, shuffled, moved, and then in some cases, put it all back where it was originally in the same day.

Not exactly sure why I do this, but one could guess it has some sort of underpinnings as a need to change and control.

In the nearly twenty years that I have been in my current home, I have redone the kitchen more than a few times.

Here’s a peak at the many iterations.

Upon moving into the house, the kitchen sorely needed attention.  The walls, floor, cupboards and appliances were dark brown and filthy.  The green laminate with burn marks and cracks went up the wall under the upper cabinets as a back splash.  I really like demolition work-so one rainy Saturday afternoon I pulled off all of the dark brown wall paneling and back splash with a crowbar.  It was so cathartic and liberating.  I had a huge pile of construction waste just outside the back door, a zillion holes to fill, and an unplanned renovation project on my hands, but the effort was worth it.

With a bit of help, we sanded the knotty pine cupboards down to within a hair of there useful life, added nickel hardware, bought new appliances, painted the walls white, put in a new maple floor, and felt so accomplished.

Iteration #1

After a few years or so, the wonky cupboards and mint green countertop weren’t working for me.

So, I hired a wonderful carpenter to make new doors and drawers while keeping the cabinet frames. Just seeing fresh, white painted cupboards was a welcome change, but the big advancement here was a mounted microwave convection oven above the stove.  I was so happy to have the big box microwave off the counter.  I was living large, so to speak.

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Iteration #2

When I added the hanging pot rack, I felt as if I were cooking in a pro-kitchen.  It wasn’t long before I realized that hanging pots get really grubby if you don’t use them (wash them) regularly.  I sold the pot rack and the pots went back in the cupboard.  That was short lived.

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Iteration #3, or perhaps 2 with some extra stuff

This configuration worked quite well for several years…. that is until I went to a high end appliance warehouse sale and spotted the dual fuel range of my dreams at the time for a bargain basement price.  It was a little bit dinged and dusty, but all bells and whistles were working and my adrenaline for a good deal was off the charts.  I had to have it.  While trying to flag down a salesperson to negotiate the delivery pricing which could have put the price out of reach, I literally wrapped myself around the range before someone else nabbed it.  I was talked into a hood and fridge at the sale and I went home a happy camper.

The new appliances were coming in a week- the space where they were to go wasn’t big enough- the range, hood and fridge were delivered and sat in the middle of the kitchen for two months while the carpenter reconfigured the cabinets to accommodate the new toys.  This was a huge indulgence.  I kept telling myself it was an investment.  Kitchens don’t appreciate, but the house around it would.  That logic satisfied me to justify the expense.

Iteration #4 the range

Iteration #4 the range installed

During this demolition I had the upper cabinets removed…loved the look, but missed the storage space.  Off I went to the consignment store with cartons full of kitchen gizmos and gadgets that I rarely used- oh, how good it felt to get rid of a hand crank,pasta machine used once in twenty years.

Lightening the load is good for the mind.  Less stuff to think about, move, clean and store.

On the left side of the kitchen I put a big cabinet that was made from some of the old upper cabinets for storage of cookbooks and special tableware.  That too worked for a spell until I decided it was too cluttered.

Iteration #5 the long table

Iteration #5 the long table

I added a long, narrow custom maple top farm table for casual kitchen dinners and Tolomeo great task lighting.

Somewhere along the way, I finally got around to painting the crown moulding that was installed after the upper cabinets were removed.  I only procrastinated about three years before getting that done.

Iteration #5 wall lighting

Iteration #5 wall lighting

One of the key features of the kitchen is the hearth.  When I bought the house it was multicolored, fifties style brick- I hated it.  After much deliberation about painting brick, I did it.  It’s not my favorite, but after staring at the yucky red, green, and gray bricks for ten years, the white paint was like a new beginning.

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Here’s the kitchen this morning…I’ve changed a few things in the past few months…

And yes, I have a pot rack again.  The difference here is that I now cook with copper nearly all the time as it is a dream to cook with and if I use the pot, the dust can’t glob onto it- regular cleaning- ha, such a good concept.

Perhaps it’s time for another iteration.

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Dinner at Salt Water Farm

Late last summer I visited Salt Water Farm in Lincolnville, Maine again, but this time for one of their farm dinners.  My prior visit was to attend one of the much hailed cooking classes at the farm.  I wrote about it here.

Curated, hosted, planned, prepared and beautifully served by Annemarie Ahearn in a spectacular oceanfront setting-it was a perfect evening.

From the early aperitif on the terrace overlooking the gardens, and then into the farm kitchen, the entire experience was so relaxing.

The communal dining table, which on this particular night included Annemarie’s parents and a few family friends, was a convivial gathering and the conversation made for a truly memorable dinner.

Annemarie offers cooking classes for the home cook at the farm and if you are so inclined to consider attending, you will not regret it.  The whole setting, and more importantly, her kindly, warm, and friendly manner makes it all the more enjoyable.

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Hyannis Ferry View

I love ferries.  This is one of my favorite views as the Nantucket bound ferry departs Hyannis Harbor.

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Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light

On a recent visit to Rockland, Maine I noodled about on the breakwater hoping to reach Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light.  The waves crashing up on the rocks as the tide was coming in made for slippery footing and soon to be treacherous conditions.

I chickened out and turned back to the shoreline.

Completed in 1900, the keeper’s house was vacated in 1963 and the light subsequently automated in 1964, the light is visible for up to 17 miles, and offers a spectacular view of the harbor.

There is something so appealing to me about the life of a lighthouse keeper- well, until the first big storm and running out of supplies.  Then I may have a different perspective.

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British Motorcars, Rhode Island

On a beautiful, Sunday afternoon last weekend I noodled south to charming Bristol, Rhode Island for the British Motorcar Festival-a low key, laid-back car show featuring some fantastic cars on the scenic grounds of Colt State Park overlooking the ocean.

I love cars.  Always have.  Although my knowledge of repair is just about limited to a basic oil change, I do appreciate the care and love of detailing by true car enthusiasts.  Vintage cars seem to be better designed than later models-less bling, fewer gadgets, simplified mechanics, cleaner lines-maybe that’s just a nostalgic yearning.

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I do think I could use this wicker, trunk mounted, picnic basket, if for no other reason than just charm.britishmotorcarfest2015 (20)

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A Land Rover Defender 90 is on my wish list.  It’s been on the list for quite some time as I really can’t wrap my head around the price for a vehicle that would be too conspicuous to drive in metro Boston.  Guess I will have to wait until I get to my much-wished-for lifestyle change to a more rural place complete with a dirt driveway.

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A little red scooter is the epitome of a good time.

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