Celebrating Spring!

Near 70 degrees in Michigan for the past two days has really given everyone around here spring fever. The minute I heard the temps were going to be above 50, sunny, windy, and no chance of rain for two whole days, I set my everyday to do list aside and started a new one —

Spring Fever To Do List

  1. Hang laundry out. I hate not being able to hang bedding and clothes outside all winter. Not only does running the dryer cost money, but it never leaves the laundry smelling quite as good as the fresh air.
  2. Start seeds for spring planting. It’s the beginning of March and time to start planting the seeds for tomatoes and peppers. These seeds take the longest to grow and are the biggest crops in my garden. Last year winter never gave us a break so I moved my potting bench into the great room along with bags of dirt and worked on starting my seeds there. This break in the weather couldn’t have come at a better time. Now I won’t have to spend a day setting everything up in the house and can just work on the patio, outside in the sunshine.
  3. Take Bell for a walk — many walks. Although Bell does get an occasional walk during the winter months, especially if the temperatures are above 35 degrees, they tend to be few and far between. With the warm weather making every activity outside inviting, walking Bell is a welcome chore.
  4. Garden planning. Admittedly, planning the garden for 2016 has not been something I have wanted to do so far this year. Every once in a while, when we’d have a fairly nice day, I’d get the gardening itch, but within a day or so the cold and snow would return and chase the itch away. Now that I can actually go out and get in the gardens to pace out new additions and plan crop rotations, the time has truly come to take this seriously.

Well, maybe not the biggest list of all the to do lists I currently have running, but I am far more excited about this one than any other at the moment. The past two days have been spent checking off this list and I have enjoyed every moment. All the bedding in the house has been washed and hung out to dry,

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Bell has had more walks in the past two days than in the past two months, I’ve got my plan for the 2016 garden layout done, and today I finished planting all the tomato and pepper seeds I’ll need come May (check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener Starting Seeds for the 2016 Garden).

This is Michigan so accepting that snow will more than likely bury us again before spring truly comes to stay is just how it is. Having this reprieve and taking total advantage of the gift — for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Happiness Is…Clothes Drying Outside On The Clothesline!

Yes, I am that crazy neighbor that on the first day above 40 degrees hangs clothes out on the clothesline!  It’s me, and I’m proud of it.

I only hung a few things out today, just to make sure they would dry.

I only hung a few things out today, just to make sure they would dry.

This morning I could hardly wait to get a load of wash out of the washing machine and rush outside into the 36 degree morning to hang my first clothes on the line since last fall.  I have missed this.  I really have.  The sweet smell of clothes coming off the line after drying for hours in the fresh air–there is nothing like it.

Hubby was not happy with me as I pulled on my boots and trudged through the foot of snow still on the lawn to pull the clothesline tight across the yard.  I didn’t care.  I would have done it if we’d still had two feet of snow out there.

Hubby told me it would never dry.  “Ha!” I said.  “Oh ye of little faith.”

Hubby asked why I “had” to do it today.  To which I responded, “Why not?!”

The morning was dreary and still, but by three o’clock, the sky was clear, the sun was shining and the temperatures had soared to a sweltering 48 degrees.  By five o’clock the clothes were completely dry and smelled just like spring. Could it get any better?  Well yes, yes it could.

When I decided to hang the clothes on the line this morning, I hadn’t taken into consideration that the poles I use to lift the lines higher once they are weighed down with clothes were still buried deep under the snow.  I managed to unbury the end of one of them, but it was frozen to the ground and not budging.  By the end of the day however, the snow on top of the poles had softened and the poles popped right out.  This means that tomorrow I can hang sheets and possibly even a comforter! Yea! Fresh sheets on the beds tomorrow!

Bell is so happy to finally be getting out of the house for more than a few minutes -- Aren't we all1

Bell is so happy to finally be getting out of the house for more than a few minutes — Aren’t we all.

So, yes I am one of those neighbors that probably a lot of people hate.  Hanging my laundry out in my yard for everyone to see.  One of my neighbors even popped her head out her back door and yelled across the fence, “Do you think it’s spring?”  To which I answered, “Wishful thinking, but all I care is my clothes dried.”

We both laughed, but makes me wonder if this bothers her.  I’m not sure and as far as most other things around our house we are quiet and reserved, so if that’s the worst thing I do while living in suburbia, I think we’ll survive, and for that I’m — Simply Grateful.

FIRE!

When you are home alone and there’s a fire in the house, is there any point to yelling “FIRE?”

Granted should there be someone walking by very close to your closed window or perhaps a peeping Tom might just be in the right place at the right time, hear your screams and come to your rescue, but for the most part, I doubt that anyone is going to hear you. This brings to mind, “If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?”

As I was canning this morning, multitasking with doing laundry, I was suddenly overtaken by the distinct smell of something burning. Checking all the burners on the stove, three of which were on, I verified that I hadn’t left a towel on one of them — again. So I did what any level-headed housewife would do, I ignored it.

After about five minutes, the smell surprisingly got worse. What could it be? I thought to myself. So I checked the oven. Nope, it wasn’t even on. Neither was the dishwasher. But turning towards the back hall and laundry room, what did I see? Yep, black smoke billowing from the laundry room.

Now I don’t believe in relying on anyone else to clean up my messes, so I figured I’d better get in there and find where the smoke was coming from and what I’d done to cause this. Entering the room, I immediately grabbed the fire extinguisher (I have one on every level of the house just for such an emergency) and walked back to the kitchen.

Well, I had to read the instructions, didn’t I?

So as the smoke is filling the kitchen, I read: “Pull pin…” Wait a minute, this sounds a lot like a grenade. But I keep reading, “Pull pin. Hold unit upright. Aim at base of fire. Stand back 6 feet.”

Already I know this is going to be a problem. I don’t have 6 feet of space in the laundry room. Oh well, at least I got the gist of it, so off to the laundry room I go, pin pulled and extinguisher at the ready.

Both the washing machine and dryer were going, but I could tell that the smoke was coming from the dryer. You ever get the feeling you’ve done this before? Deja vu most definitely. This wasn’t the first time smoke was streaming from the dryer. The only question I had was whether or not to open the bottom panel of the dryer or not. That’s where the fire was, I knew this from experience. Instead I opened the dryer door to stop the dryer and opened the window.

The dilemma: If I open the panel and let lots of fresh air in there, would this cause a “back draft?” But if I didn’t open the panel to extinguish the flames, would all the wiring under there be toast?

Being the good, experienced housewife that I am, I called Hubby.

By now the smoke wasn’t as bad, or I was getting used to it. The open window was probably helping too.

Hubby didn’t answer.

What to do? What to do?

Deciding that I really didn’t want to have to buy a new dryer, I returned to the laundry room and removed the panel. Doing this with one hand, as the other had to have the extinguisher at the ready should the flames come barreling out of the dryer, was no easy task. The panel was hot, but not so much that I couldn’t handle it, so I knew the fire was farther back in the machine. With much effort and a few choice words for why this stupid panel was ever replaced after the last fire (apparently Hubby doesn’t think this is too uncommon an occurance for a dryer to warrant getting a new one) the panel fell forward and I peered into the blackened underbelly of the dryer.

Smoke obscured my view but as it slowly cleared I could see that soot was everywhere, but no flame. That was good, right? No flames, means no fire. So I took my fire extinguisher and left. No sense sitting in the smoke-filled room worrying about the wires now, so I went back to canning.

It took Hubby over an hour to return my panicked message. By that time the smell was bearable and my second batch of jalapeno peppers were in the canner.

So to answer my own question, “When you are home alone and there’s a fire in the house, is there any point to yelling ‘FIRE?’” No, not really. But even more importantly, why didn’t the smoke detector that is right outside the laundry room door go off? It certainly has no problem going off every time I use the broiler in the kitchen or for that matter the oven. There’s come to be a saying around our house, “If the smoke detectors not beeping, Mom’s not cooking!” And yet, with black smoke billowing from the laundry room, it didn’t make a peep. This definitely warrants more pondering.

For now, I’m glad that the fire didn’t spread, the smell is getting a bit better, the remainder of the laundry in the laundry room is all laundry to be hung outside, and I now have a better grasp of how to work my fire extinguisher, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Quick Fix Monte Cristo

Hard work is often the piling up of the easy things you neglected to do. – Unknown

The weather did not cooperate today, so the garden will have to wait at least another day. The plum tree though is well on its way to full bloom.

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Instead of dodging raindrops outside, I decided to concentrate on finishing up a ton of little projects that have been accumulating since Christmas. Spring is the ideal time for deep “spring cleaning” so today was the day.

The first chore on my never ending to do list I wanted to get done was a trip to St. Vincent De Paul to drop off a carload of donations. It amazes me how much crap one can accumulate in a short period of time. I made a trip like this just before Christmas, and now I’ve got twice as much stuff to get rid off. Clothes, books, purses, shoes, bags, appliances, dishes, Christmas decorations, and even some exercise equipment — and that was just the first load. Next week I’ll fill the car again and maybe free up some extra space for my pantry.

Next on my list was a clothes basket full of ironing. I swear I let it pile up until there isn’t a clean shirt for my hubby to wear. Does anyone iron anymore?  None of my neighbors do.  How do they manage that?  Even hanging clothes outside on the line I need to run an iron across nearly every shirt and pant that I bring in.  At least it’s not as bad as when my grandmother used to iron — she ironed underwear and sheets.  I don’t take it that far.  It took most of the afternoon, but now it’s done until I clean the winter clothes out of the closets for the summer — yes that was on the to do list too, but I needed to enjoy the moment, albeit temporary, of an empty ironing basket.

All afternoon I checked little things off my list and really thought I was making headway, until I looked at the clock and realized I had only 30 minutes before dinner was supposed to rear it’s ugly head.

What to make? Although I don’t like to make a habit of serving sandwiches for dinner, the Monte Cristo sandwich is definitely filling enough to squeak by as a meal.

The traditional Monte Cristo is ham, turkey, and cheese dipped in egg, of course, as usual I did not have all the ingredients. Not being one tied to a recipe, I took all the lunch meat and cheese out of the fridge and viola! dinner.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches on the griddle.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches on the griddle.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

  • Bread or Rolls
  • Lunch meat – I used ham, salami, bologna, and pastrami
  • Cheese – traditionally it calls for cheddar and swiss. I used spicy Fiesta Jack and Provolone
  • 3 Eggs
  • Milk
  1. Assemble sandwiches making sure to place the lunch meat in between two slices of cheese.
  2. Dip completed sandwich in egg mixed with milk.
  3. Cook on griddle until cheese melts and bread browns.
  4. Serve with maple syrup.

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I was the only one who ate the sandwich with syrup. Hubby likes his plain, Zeb eats his with ranch dressing, and Grace uses thousand island dressing. Served with a side of homemade French fries and a salad it was dinner.

Some days it’s nice not to spend hours in the kitchen making dinner and yet serving something that is hearty and fulfilling, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Summer Beginnings

Today was the first “summer-like” day of 2014 here in Michigan.  The bugs were buzzing, the birds were singing,  the flowers blooming, and the sun was shining.  A perfect day to be outside enjoying the gifts of nature.

A ladybug checking out my laundry hanging on the line.

A ladybug checking out my laundry hanging on the line.

Hanging laundry on the line, spreading fresh mulch in the flower beds, cleaning out the gardens — and way too much sun.  I always forget the sunscreen on the first summery day of the year — one of these days I’ll remember, just not today

Mr. Robin watching as I worked.

Mr. Robin watching as I worked.

It was amazing how many birds were hanging around and chirping.  It was borderline “loud.”  The game of chase that the wood sparrows played, the red-tailed hawks soaring high above my head, and the blue jays squawking in the trees, and the chimney swifts darting about kept me company all day long.

The first open blossom on the plum tree.  Looks like I'm canning plums this summer!

The first open blossom on the plum tree. Looks like I’m canning plums this summer!

There are a ton of flowers itching to bloom.  I bet by tomorrow there will be lots more blooming.

There are a ton of flowers itching to bloom. I bet by tomorrow there will be lots more blooming.

The bloom I took a picture of opened up early afternoon and I had to stand on a ladder to get it.  It was the only one open on the whole tree.  By the end of the day the tree had at least 50 blooms wide open.

The bulbs around the plum tree continue to grow and although they are few, their scent fills the back patio with sweetness.

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The lawn needs cutting, but because of the terrible storms we had last night, it was too drenched to try.  My husband is not going to be happy because the dandelions are getting ready to seed.  I think it looks pretty, even if it does mean we’ll have yellow in our lawn all summer.  Some weeds are just too pretty to be without.

Maybe tomorrow this dandelion will have a puff for a neighbor -- then I can make a wish!

Maybe tomorrow this dandelion will have a puff for a neighbor — then I can make a wish!

The lilacs are still not blooming, but one particular bumblebee keeps visiting — waiting for those tiny flowers to open up for him to suck out the sweet nectar.  I tried really hard to get him to turn around for a picture, but he was not very cooperative.  I sort of felt like he was mooning me.

It was a great day to add fresh mulch to the flower beds and clean out a few small garden spots.  If the weather holds, tomorrow I’ll tackle the big garden so it will be ready for planting mid-month.  For now, I am happy that the plum tree has flowers so we’ll have plums for fresh plum pie, plum pie filling, and plums in syrup, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Shower Scene

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“If we can’t alter the tide of events, at least we can be nearby with towels to mop up.” ~ Peter David, Q-in-Law

Or not!

This morning I woke to the wonderful sound of birds chirping outside my window just as the sky began to turn pink with dawn. Lying in bed, contemplating the day ahead of me, I decided to get a jump on everything and shower before the kids got up and the demands of motherhood claimed my time.

Excited to be starting my day showered and dressed, I jumped out of bed and quietly closed the bathroom doors behind me. Turning the shower faucet to HOT, I dropped my night-clothes on the floor and slipped into the shower too anxious to wait for it to fill with steam.

It was glorious having those few moments to myself, hot water spraying my face, steam chasing the night’s chill from my bones, and no worry of someone knocking on the door wondering how much longer I was going to be. For 15 minutes I enjoyed the luxuries that peace and quiet can only give.

Realizing that if I wanted to enjoy my first cup of coffee without interruption I’d better get moving, I shut off the water and turned to face the bathroom beyond the shower door. Standing there, water dripping from me I took in the bathroom for the first time that morning. Having been consumed with the thrill of an early morning shower, I hadn’t taken the time to do so before. Staring at the bare towel rack I suddenly remembered cleaning out all the towels last night and putting them in the laundry room so I could wash them bright and early today. No worries. I would just hop over to the vanity and grab a fresh one from under there.

A towel bar with no towels -- there ought to be a law!

A towel bar with no towels — there ought to be a law!

Pushing the shower door open, I gingerly stepped on my discarded night-clothes that I’d conveniently left in front of the shower (yes, I’d removed the bath mat for washing as well), dripping water all over them. Then, stepping on the rug in front of the vanity I opened the cabinet door and…

Mother Hubbard's cupboard was bare.

Mother Hubbard’s cupboard was bare.

EMPTY! How could this be? Wait…I remember now, last night I struggled to get the laundry downstairs because all of the clothes baskets were full of folded laundry out in the hallway, waiting to be put away. They’d been there for at least a week. I really hate putting laundry away and ALWAYS wait until the last possible moment.

No problem, I thought, turning to the hook on the back of the bathroom door where my robe hangs. Nothing. Oh yeah, last night after hearing the weather was going to be perfect for hanging clothes outside today, I’d taken my robes downstairs to the laundry room too. Just too damn efficient.

So, beginning to shiver, I contemplated my options:

  1. I could pull my night-clothes over my soaking body and run to the baskets in the hallway for a fresh towel. Of course that might have been an option had I not just trailed a stream of water from the shower to the rug, drenching my clothes as I used them as a stepping stone to the vanity.
  2. I could call out to the kids for help. That was almost funny. I can barely get them to wake up when I’m standing over them and shaking them. Calling through the bathroom door and then their closed bedroom doors, would surely be a waste of breath.
  3. There was a roll of paper towel, a half-full (definitely need to be optimistic here) box of Kleenex, and a roll of toilet paper I could use to dry myself. Oh yes, I could see it clearly — an experiment in human papier-mache. Tiny bits of paper stuck to me like glue and toilet paper dust clinging everywhere. No thank you!
  4. The rug! I could wrap the rug around me, grab a towel from the basket in the hallway, and return to the bathroom to finish drying off. But…how long had that rug been on the floor? When was the last time I washed it? Still, it seemed the only possible option.

Turning the shower back on so I could rinse off in a warm shower before drying myself with a clean towel, I stepped back on to my wet bedclothes, picked up the rug, shook it gently, and watched the bathroom fill with dust. Never mind, I thought, there’s no other choice. I closed my eyes, trying not to think about the dirt, and pulled the rug tightly around me.

Shoving open the bathroom door I walked as fast as I could to the hallway where the clothes baskets waited. The first one was full of clothes, the second had winter blankets that I’d hung on the line last week, and the third — wait, that one had clothes in it too? Where were the towels?

My mind racing, I replayed last weeks laundry adventures in my head and remembered not washing the load of towels because I wanted to concentrate on doing all the laundry I could hang outside first. So now what?

My humor gone, not caring about the birds chirping or the sun rising, I stomped down the stairs, stormed through the great room, trudged into the laundry room and picked a towel out of the dirty laundry. It would have to do.

Dragging myself back up the stairs and into the bathroom I threw the towel on the towel bar, dropped the rug on the floor, and jumped back into the shower. As wonderfully as my day had been going, you’d think I would have anticipated what happened next, but no, I guess the full extent of my morning hadn’t hit me yet, but when the ice-cold water hit me it certainly did. I screeched. Running through the house, searching for a towel had taken enough time to extinguish the last of the hot water. Perfect!

So here I sit at the computer after getting my son off to school, dropping my daughter off at college, and putting a load of towels in the washing machine–with my first cup of coffee. Rehashing this morning’s comedy of errors, I remember Robert Frost’s words,

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on”

and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Clean Towels!  I wonder how long it will take to get these put away?

Clean Towels! I wonder how long it will take to get these put away?

 

 

Michigan Monday Morning

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” – Anne Frank

It is a perfect Michigan Monday morning. The temperature is around 63° at 10:00 and the sun is already high in the sky, beating down on me as I sit here on the patio enjoying a moment of peace before continuing on with the demands of the day.

The birds are singing, filling the yard with their song and soothing my mind as it races with all that needs to be done. Already there are sheets and a quilt on the line stretched across the yard drying, the dishwasher has been run and is waiting to be emptied, the kids have been dropped off at their respective schools, my hubby is off to work with his lunch packed and ready for him to heat up, dinner is planned, and the dog has been walked. Not much more that I want to get done today, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of things to do.

Walking through the yard this morning I stopped off at the lilac bushes on the side of the house. After the snow we had the other day, I figured any chance of blooms this year were gone. To my surprise, the blooms hadn’t sprouted far enough from the protection of the leaves surrounding them and they are just now starting to poke through. It looks like the bushes will be covered in blooms by Mother’s Day and then I can fill the house with the delicate lavender flowers and enjoy the sweet smell for days.

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Most of the bulbs I planted last spring didn’t make it through the winter. I think the squirrels got the majority of them and those they didn’t, the snow took last week. There are just a couple under the plum tree that appear to have survived. Hopefully the snow will not make another unwelcome visit and maybe I’ll get to enjoy a few flowers before the weather is consistently warm enough to plant some annuals.

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The plum tree is still bare. This isn’t out of the ordinary. Typically it doesn’t start to show signs of life until May, and late-May at that. Last year it gave us more than 120 pounds of usable fruit (more than 100 pounds had to be thrown out). I’m not sure if plum trees produce fruit every year. It had been three or four years since we’d gotten any usable fruit because of brown-rot, so I’m not sure what this trees cycle is. It would certainly be nice to get a bumper crop again. Although if you’d asked me last year while I was canning the 120 pounds of plum, I probably wouldn’t have been all that receptive to ever harvesting another plum. Thank goodness time calibrates perspective.

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The grass is still spotted yellow, but some green has pushed its way through the matted down clippings left over from the final cutting of the season last October. The grass should probably be ready to cut in the next couple of weeks, well on its way to the thick plush lawn I love.

Today would be a perfect day to barbecue, but nothing sounded appealing when I was planning dinner for tonight. I finally settled on trying a new recipe for pepper steak. I have tried this meal several times in the past and have been left disappointed. Most of the time the steak is tasty, but nothing like the pepper steak served in Chinese restaurants. Thank God for the Internet because there are so many recipes out there to try I’m sure that one day I’ll get it right. So, although standing outside by the grill on such a beautiful day was tempting, I’ll just open all the windows in the kitchen and enjoy the fresh air as it streams through the screens.

I really should head inside to work on the unending chores that await me, but the slight breeze tickling my arms reminds me that sometimes taking a break is more important than getting a job done. When I finally do drag myself away from this beautiful morning and begrudgingly continue on with my To Do List, I will take with me the memory of this time. Life is what you make of the moments were given. Appreciating this perfect Michigan morning is one of those moments worth holding on to, savoring, locking away inside. Moments like this ground me and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” –
Henry David Thoreau

Hung Out To Dry

I really like doing the laundry, because I succeed at it. But I loathe putting it away. It is already clean.

Jenny Holzer

Oh my gosh!  This quote is so me.  I absolutely love doing laundry.  The smell of freshly washed clothes, the stacks of crisply folded shirts, the piles of skidmark-free underwear — things don’t get much better.  Yet, when it comes to actually putting all the wonderful laundry away, you would think I were getting a tooth pulled.  Clothes will sit in the clothes basket, all folded and neat, for days, maybe even a week or more.  Usually until I need the basket or more likely, it’s time to do laundry again.

Today, however, all the laundry that I’ve done, will be put away without waiting.  I am not even going to fold it.  For today was the first day of 2014 that I was able to hang out my blankets and sheets on my clothes line.  I took full advantage of the beautiful 68 degree weather with a slight breeze.  Ideal for clothesline hanging.

My first load was in the machine at 7:00 a.m. — my thickest and heaviest blanket.  This blanket doesn’t get washed very often during the winter and is therefore not used all that much.  It takes more than 200 minutes in the dryer to completely dry.  Way too many minutes for my pocketbook.  This blanket has been sitting on the chair in my room for two months waiting for the weather to finally break.  By 8:30 it was strung high on the line, flapping aimlessly in the wind.

Next I had to wash the quilt from my bed with one of the sheets.  Then finally the last load was a blanket, four pillowcases, and the top sheet.  I have one more blanket to wash, but it was too thick to put out and expect to get dry by the end of the day.  I will wash this the next nice day we have.  I won’t need it because I’ll have the one that hasn’t been on my bed for two months back tonight.

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There is something about clean sheets that I love.  The excitement I feel as I stretch them across the mattress, tucking them tightly between the box spring and mattress, sure not to have a single wrinkle, is just like the excitement I felt walking downstairs Christmas morning as a child.  Yeah, as you get older it really doesn’t take a whole lot to give you a cheap thrill.  Still, I have gone to the clothes line no less than ten times already today to take a whiff of the drying blankets and sheets because I can’t wait till they’re upstairs on my bed.

I am the only person in my neighborhood that has a clothesline.  I am the only person in my neighborhood that hangs their clothes outside.  A couple of my neighbors have made snide comments, but I ignore them.  Technology may have come a long way since the days when clothes lines were a bare necessity of the worked-to-the-bone housewife, but there isn’t a technological advance that can replace the smell or feel of linens fresh from the line.  For this, I am Simply Grateful.

“Hanging laundry on a line is a very ordinary task. It is as ordinary as scraped knees and lost keys, as fixing the same simple dish for supper again, and again. Ordinary is most days, and Lord helps is if we overlook them.” 
― Jerusalem Jackson GreerA Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together