Projects: good ideas, but ...

Sunday, November 2, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:25 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

I hate doing repetitive things like folding laundry or doing dishes. It’s not the part where I place the dishes or the dirty clothes into the machine that washes them that I hate. I loathe having to remove the items to either be folded or put back in the cupboard. What’s the use? Once I get everything put away, it’s time to use them again. These mundane tasks take time away from the projects I’m dying to start but never seem to get to.

I’m not a craft person. I’ve never stenciled a wall or appliquéd a sweatshirt — I leave those “fun” undertakings to my daughters-in-law. But there are a few projects that I’ve kept waiting in the wings.

One ambitious project I actually started was sorting all of the photos I’ve collected over the past few decades. The idea was to make photo albums for each of my seven children. I bought the albums — shopping has always been the easy part — and one day I devoted several hours to sorting the photos. I made piles of pictures, one pile for each intended recipient. This is more difficult than you might think, because most of the pictures featured several people. My task was to choose which child was the most prominent and put the picture in his or her stack. I made another pile of photos I just couldn’t part with, and I must say that this pile was by far the largest, and also a throwaway pile, which contained fuzzy photos or cut-off heads, some of which photojournalists would think of as art. I was halfway through my collection when I realized I had an appointment. I couldn’t leave the mess scattered all over my living room floor. So I picked up the piles, securing each bundle with a rubber band.

Several weeks later, I needed a particular photo to show a friend my last year’s Christmas decorations. I didn’t have a group of just decoration photos, so I had to go through all the piles. I was in a hurry and neglected to put the rubber bands back around each stack. Well … you get the picture. They all got jumbled together, and I have to start over again.

For years I’ve wanted to teach myself how to decorate cakes and cookies. Sure, I could take a cake decorating class, but because I’m left-handed I do everything backward. Better to learn in the privacy of my kitchen. I have all the necessary gizmos and gadgets. I have round and square spring-form pans. I have large and small bundt pans, and one pan that forms the cake into a flower. I have cookie cutters in every imaginable shape in both stainless and copper. I have horded dyes and confectioners sugar. I bought the specialized spatulas and piping tips. I have several how-to books and a video. I even bought an apron with several pockets, though I haven’t a clue as to what to put in the pockets.

But have I taught myself how to make a rose or even a star? No! I keep thinking I’ll wait until I have nothing to do and spend the day learning.

I’m not the only one with projects in waiting. Every year my husband decides he’s going to make something for the kids or grandkids for Christmas. He usually thinks up a project in mid-July when he has plenty of time to get it done. He goes to the hardware store, his home away from home, and buys the necessary lumber, paint, etc. Then he takes them to his workshop. That’s where they stay, forgotten, until late November when he rediscovers his neglected wannabe presents. Of course it’s too late to complete several items before Christmas, so he decides he won’t start on any of them. He has the entire alphabet in wood — that was the year he was going to make wall plaques for the grandchildren. He has lumber from the year he was going to make little dressing tables for the girls. And more lumber — he said he needed a different type — for the hand-painted swings he was going to make for each family’s yard. He’s already bought this year’s Christmas project, which I can’t talk about since it’s supposed to be a surprise. The surprise, however, will be if he actually completes the project.

This year, I’m taking the bull by the horns. The two of us are going to complete at least one project by year’s end. Maybe we should join forces and work on a project together, although I can’t see my husband fashioning roses out of frosting. Nor do I see myself wearing plastic goggles, cutting wood on my husband’s prized band saw. We could sort photos together, but I know from experience that each picture he picks up will ignite a memory and a story.

Whoever said that couples who play together stay together is absolutely correct. But couples who do projects together end up in divorce court. I think it’s better that we go our separate ways — he to the basement, me to the attic. He gets to go first.

If you have a comment or want to teach me how to decorate a cookie WITHOUT using sprinkles, please e-mail me at

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