A Little This & That ~ Organizing 2017

With 2017 now just days away, it’s time to turn my attention towards the New Year, and do my best to make it the best year ever.  My technique is to continue my daily panning around my to-do list into the New Year, which keeps me on track and focused on what needs to be done.

My system is based on using a daily planner and calendar to write down the top five or so things I need to accomplish each day, along with a check box to check it off once the task is completed.  This year I’m using the ‘FOUR SEASONS 2017 Engagement Planner and Wall Calendar’ by LANG to keep myself organized.  This is a technique that has worked well for me for years now, as it focuses on accomplishing what’s important to me each day.  If I don’t get around to completing a specific task one day, I’ll just slip it to the next day until it’s completed.  What’s done is done, and that’s the main point.

This year I started podcasting, and so far I’m on track to complete 213 ‘Simply Mark’ podcasts in 2016 which amazes me, but in reality it’s simply focusing one day at a time on the tasks at hand.  I was also able to also make 20 videos in 2016, for a total of 101 videos since Dec 9, 2014 ~ along with 13 music videos of my original songs before that ~ something I’d never done before.

I also completed seven acrylic on canvas paintings in 2016, after completing six new paintings in 2015.  I hadn’t painted in decades, and while I always wanted to paint again one day, it took a very long time for me to get motivated to do it.  Only after retiring in late 2013, was I positioned to have the time and focus available to rededicate myself to my artwork.

My long-term goal is to finally complete and wrap up all the individual projects and stories I’ve started over the past years and decades, and then move on towards focusing on all my remaining goals and interests ~ which is only made possible by focusing on my top five priorities each day.

I wish you and yours all the very best for 2017, and hope that you, too, will find a way to keep yourself organized, motivated and productive throughout 2017!  Cheers! ☼ 🙂

A Little This & That ~ Breaking in Cowboy Boots

My leather cowboy boots are close to a year old, and I wanted to find a way to break them in to achieve a well worn, comfortable, and aged look ~ like they’d been through a few rodeos and cattle drives by now! 🙂 Unfortunately, as I don’t live on a ranch, haven’t ridden in a rodeo, or participated in even one cattle drive from Montana to Texas, my boots haven’t naturally shown any wear and tear from ridin’ the range.

I’ve worked the leather uppers by hand a number of times to soften the leather, but wasn’t able to achieve much in the way of progress. Knowing that traditional leather horse tack is oiled, I decided to oil my boots with coconut oil in the liquid state (room temperature in the summer).  Coconut oil is a solid when cold, and liquid at room temperature ~ as well as reportedly anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral ~ and never goes rancid in the jar.

First, I used a half-inch wide paintbrush to paint the coconut oil on with shoe stretchers inserted into the boots.  Then after the coconut oil soaked in and dried overnight, I worked the leather shafts (uppers) in every possible way until both the leather and my hands were tired ~ and then after a few days repeated the entire process from the beginning with the paint brush.

The result is that the leather is now soft and supple, and absorbed the coconut oil well.  The leather’s dry to the touch and not greasy, and I’ve decided to not buff them, and leave them in a well-worn looking condition.  They may not have seen a rodeo before, but they are considerably softer and more supple now, then when I began the process.

Here are a couple of photos of my well-worn looking boots, and now I’ll wear them for the next year and revisit the issue whether coconut oil did the job I expected it to do, or not.  In the meantime, I’ll hope to sign on to a cattle drive or two! 🙂

Update #1 ~ It’s now October 5, 2016, and I’ve since worn my broken-in cowboy boots (Cody James@ Men’s Distressed Round Toe Western Boots) that I love a few times now, as the summer shorts season is coming to a close and it’s time for wearing my Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots! 🙂 The two coconut oil treatments while breaking-in the leather by hand, has worked wonderfully, leaving the leather butter soft and supple, with no negative effects.  Each time I wear them now, it feels like I could easily sleep in them, as they’re that comfortable.  My only additional update is that I inserted a comfort insole into my boots for walking, and otherwise I’m sold on using coconut oil to treat my boots once a year from now on to keep the leather soft and supple! ☼ 🙂

A Little This & That ~ A Standing Desk

I have lots of different interests that I enjoy pursuing, like my post about ‘Buttermilk Pancakes & Growing Saplings’ the other day, and landscaping in general.  Today’s post is about my love of working with natural wood ~ and solid-wood furniture in particular.  This category of ‘A Little This & That’ is a place for me to discuss some of my other pastimes, ones that I may not have the opportunity to often blog about.

The other day in my ‘Baking’ category (listed down a bit on the left side of this blog), I mentioned that we loved Crema Marfil Marble, and had acquired a 2′ x 4′ section for a pastry board on our kitchen island.  We didn’t want to discard the other marble remnant section, and chose to polish the edges and see if we might create a counter-height free-standing pastry island for it, or put together a counter-height standing desk ~ and we chose to do the latter.

I love working with solid wood furniture ~ whether antiques, well-used furniture, or new and unfinished pieces.  We acquired much of our furniture over the years during our 16 years overseas in England and Germany, always preferring solid wood and never modern press-board.  My favorite option is simply finishing furniture in the ‘Old World’ hand paste wax tradition, and buffing it to a nice sheen.  Most of our furniture is hand waxed in this way, and many of the pieces have slowly darkened in color naturally over the years and decades we’ve owned them.

One of my long-term goals is to set up a workshop for working on and refinishing furniture, most likely a purpose-built shed that I can detail inside to suit my needs.  Of course, if I could shoot for the moon, I’d have a 10 acre farmstead with a little stream and lake in a northern tier state, set up my workshop in an idyllic picture-perfect barn, raise a few horses, a couple of donkeys, a handful of goats and sheep, a farmyard of free-range chickens, and create a couple of natural meadows of wildflowers beside the stream for the bees, butterflies and wildlife to enjoy! 🙂 Oh well, I suppose the largest shed our HOA will allow will have to do ~ the rest remains the fabric of my dreams…

We ordered a solid wood unfinished table from ‘Wayfair’ dot com, as they had the farmhouse style table we like in multiple sizes and heights.  We selected a rectangular, counter-height hardwood table 30″ x 42″ in size, just larger than our remnant piece of crema marfil marble used to top it with.  The Wayfair hardwood desk was very well manufactured and professionally packed, included high-quality hardware, and assembled easily.  We hand-waxed the table twice, covering every inch of the unfinished wood, and buffed it to a nice sheen.

So now my study has a standing desk in the corner beside my regular desk under the window, with the TV/DVR, a small lamp, and my daily planner, tucked under some of my earlier paintings.  It’s a perfect set-up for me ~ and perhaps you, too, may be thinking of adding a standing desk in your own home ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂

A Little This & That ~ Buttermilk Pancakes & Growing Saplings

This morning I made buttermilk pancakes ~ but it was too early for photos ~ so I wanted to pass along the recipe that we very much enjoyed.  The recipe’s called ‘BA’s Best Buttermilk Pancakes’ found at ‘Bon Appétit’ dot com.  I was tired of making pancakes from mixes, and wanted to find a simple recipe from scratch that was easy to make, and this is the one for me!  It was easy to reduce the amount of ingredients required in the recipe by half, and the batch made 8 delicious, regular sized pancakes about 4″ across.  I’ve bookmarked the page for all future pancake weekends, and my searching for the ‘perfect’ recipe is over! 🙂

On another subject, and the reason for adding the ‘A Little This & That’ category, is to mention our growing saplings of the ‘Yellow Mexican Bird of Paradise’ shrub ~ which can actually be pruned into small trees.  We purchased enough shrubs from a nursery this summer to start two different hedges in our backyard, but wanted to grow new saplings ourselves to extend both hedges.

As the shrubs put out seed pods, I collect the seeds by opening the pods and plant them in starter buckets, before transplanting them into our flower pots.  The key here is wash my hands well after handling the seeds, as they’re reported to be poisonous.  Our annual flowers had run their course, so we’re making good use of the planters for growing saplings and as an herb garden.  Saplings also sprout underneath the shrubs, which I then transplant to new containers.  I took photos of the planters tonight, and thought I’d share this adventure in gardening with you ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂