Minnesota Michelle and the Closet of Doom

I was never the kid with the clean room.

My preferred method of cleaning has always been the squirrel method – shove everything into a box/under the bed/into a closet/out of sight and deal with it later. Except later rarely, if ever, comes.

My closet has been a real issue since I moved to this apartment. When I moved out of my house and downsized to my first “single lady” apartment, I had an offsite storage unit to keep all of my excess crap in. When I moved to Minnesota, I had a one bedroom + den, so all the excess crap lived in the den. But now I have a one bedroom. And it’s a one bedroom that was built in the early 1900s, so there isn’t much excess storage space. And my closet…

I hate doing laundry, but even more than that, I hate folding and putting away my clothes. I usually have a pile of clean clothes and a pile of dirty clothes hanging out on my floor. Yes, I live like a disorganized college student for the most part. And over the course of the last 2 years, every stitch of clothing I own has migrated to my closet floor. Oh, I would occasionally go spelunking in there for that one shirt I really wanted to wear this week, but for the most part, I just did my best to keep the door closed and the laundry beast at bay.

That has been changing over the last couple of weeks. I pulled all of the clothes out of my closet and made piles in my bedroom. The bed was covered in clothes I was keeping. The big pile at the end of the bed was all of my extra sheets and towels (Hey! I have extra sheets and towels!). There was the big pile of shoes in the middle of the floor – including the fuzzy boots I’ve been looking for all winter. Just inside my doorway was the pile that I was am going to donate to charity. Plus there was all of the bonus, what in the heck is this doing in here stuff that I uncovered. Like a package of jelly jars. For canning. I have no idea why those were in my bedroom closet.

I spent two nights sleeping on the loveseat in my living room, as I couldn’t see the mattress on my bed. During the evenings, I washed, dried and hung up or folded laundry. After 6 loads of laundry, I was able to eke out a twin-sized space for me to sleep, with one cat choosing to sleep on my back and the other nestled between my legs. After another 2 days, my bed was clear.

I can see floor in my closet. I have 4 oversized garbage bags of clothing to donate. I still have one monster pile of sheets, towels and other random bedding that I will take care of at the laundromat (can you say oversized machines?) this weekend.

And I have learned my lesson. My closet is never getting this out of control again!

The More You Know: Natural Flavors and Beavers

Natural and organic are not always better for you.

Sometimes, “natural” is downright disgusting.

I had a friend share this with me, and I feel the need to shout this knowledge from the rooftops.

If you’re eating something that has a vanilla, raspberry or strawberry flavor, but those items aren’t in the list of ingredients, you may be eating beaver butt squeezings.

Per Wikipedia:

In the United States, castoreum is considered to be a GRASfood additive by the Food and Drug Administration. It is often referenced simply as a “natural flavoring” in products’ lists of ingredients. While it is mainly used in foods and beverages as part of a substitute vanilla flavour, it is less commonly used as a part of a raspberry or strawberry flavoring. The annual industry consumption is very low, around 300 pounds, whereas vanillin is over 2.6 million pounds annually.

Castoreum has been traditionally used in Sweden for flavoring schnapps commonly referred to as “Bäverhojt”.

So what is castoreum?

Castoreum/kæsˈtɔriəm/ is the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) and the European Beaver (Castor fiber). Within the zoological realm, castoreum is the yellowish secretion of the castor sac which is, in combination with the beaver’s urine, used during scent marking of territory. Both beaver genders possess a pair of castor sacs and a pair of anal glands located in two cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail. The castor sacs are not true glands (endocrine or exocrine) on a cellular level, hence references to these structures as preputial glands or castor glands are misnomers. Castor sacs are a type of scent gland.

Today, it is used as a tincture in some perfumes and as a food additive.

I have been desperately checking the labels of all my favorite fruity snacks, to be sure that those dreaded words – “natural flavoring” – aren’t part of the label list.

I have no idea who thought squeezing a beaver and eating whatever came out was a good idea, but GROSS!!!!!!

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2015!

While part of me finds it humorous that we (collectively) view the changing of one day to another day as a clean slate and fresh start, I’m not going to argue with it today. It’s a new day, a clean slate and a fresh start!

As such, you will be hearing a lot more from me this year. I’m not putting any unrealistic goals out there. Honestly, when I do that and struggle, I find it a lot easier to quit than to continue. But there will be a lot more posts from me. I have things on my mind, and I need a way to clear them out.

Also, I set a goal of reading 100 new (to me) books last year. I did fall a little short of that goal. I finished 87. Still, I was pretty proud of myself to get that close!

I’m repeating that goal this year. When I posted on my private Facebook page that I’d read that many books, I had several people ask me for my favorite read of the year. Generally, picking my favorite books is like picking my favorite kid. I tend to like most of what I read. So this year, I will be including book reviews as part of my revitalized blog. To be totally transparent, I will be receiving some of my books for free via NetGalley, in exchange for reviews – but my opinions will always be honest. If I don’t care for something, I will tell you and give you the reasons why.

So happy New Year! I’m looking forward to so many things in 2015, and can’t wait to share them all with you!

A Winter Driving PSA

Minnesota got walloped with its first winter storm of the season Sunday night/Monday morning. Then we got some more snow last night. To be honest, the storm surprised most of us. It seemed to just come from nowhere, especially since our high temp on Sunday was in the 40s.

And yesterday, all the commuters lost their mind. It’s been about 6 months since we had to deal with any winter weather, and the first storm is always painful as everyone tries to remember how to drive in inclement weather again.

I live 5.2 miles from my job. It takes me about 12 minutes to get from door to door. I go through 11 stoplights along my way. Yesterday, I gave my fellow commuters a pass. Many were getting off the gridlocked highways and taking surface streets to their destination, so all the roads were busy. My normal commute time was doubled – it took me 30 minutes to get to work.

Today, the congestion is a lot better. The stupidity, however, still reigns. Not once, but twice, I ended up by cars that were turning left from the incorrect lane. You see, while the streets have largely been cleared, the turn lanes are still slushy. So rather than getting in the turn lanes like they’re supposed to, these drivers decide to make the turn from the next lane to the right.


The first time it happened, I was behind the turning car. I was nearly rear-ended because the light was green, and I was in a lane that wasn’t supposed to be touching the brakes when the light was green.

The second time, I was in the turn lane pictured above. The car in the middle lane – the straight only lane – had turned its left turn-signal on about 50 ft before the intersection. I, who was turning left, actually moved into the slushy turn lane. When that car saw what I did, they made the wise decision to continue going straight instead of making the illegal left-hand turn from the wrong lane.

Ugh. It’s going to be a long winter, folks.