Saturday, December 31, 2011

The end of Week 1

for the Great Grocery Challenge of 2012 (even though it's not 2012 yet). My goal is to spend no more than $10 per day (although I have given myself $75 per week) on groceries/food. I think the extra $5 will be spent on going out for food or treats.

We had a little hiccup this week. I think it has the potential to happen quite regularly and is something we will have to figure out to every one's satisfaction. When I announced I was going to the store Mr. Dub wanted to go with me. I specifically told him what was on my grocery list - and he is aware of the budget plan so I can't say he just didn't know - but when we got to the store things started going in the cart that weren't on my list. There was a mild disagreement that ended when he declared that he would pay for the groceries that were in the cart. The total came to $29 and change, but the items that were on my list amounted to $12.57 and that is what I'm counting for my budget because I wouldn't have bought the extras if I'd been alone at the store. Another time I went to the store this week I spent $6.96 on groceries.

So the grand total for this week is $19.53 at the grocery store. I feel good about that but not 100% because of the tinge of lingering discomfort over the tiff with Mr. Dub. It was food that he bought, but not food that we needed - just things that he wanted. I will always add the items to my weekly grocery list that are for him that he likes to have on hand, but I will try to not have him go to the store with me on a regular basis. I usually do my shopping while he's at work, but he's been taking vacation days from work for a couple of weeks.

Overall I think that this week is not typical of how it will go. I have had extra people in the house eating and going to the store with me because of Christmas break. And like I mentioned before I have lots of fresh food in the house right now - plenty of meat, cheese, and produce - so I haven't had to buy any of that. Two things that I feel like I'm going to have to get used to are staying out of the store by making do with what I have on hand, and cooking more of our meals completely from scratch. I've made bread twice this week (in my new bread pans!) which is something I enjoy but usually talk myself out of doing because of the time involved. Maybe this challenge will help me slow down my life and do things with more intent which would be a nice thing for me.

Dinners we ate this week:
  1. tacos
  2. beef enchiladas and mexican rice
  3. grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup
  4. cheesy chicken/broccoli/rice casserole and green beans
  5. homemade pizza with pepperoni and veggies
  6. spaghetti

and one night where everyone got their own dinner - sandwiches or chili or leftovers. We will have to find the happy medium where I am not spending a lot of money on extras at the store and everyone still gets at least some of the things they want.

Especially my good Mr. Dub.

Friday, December 30, 2011

In no particular order...


...these are the movies that came out this year, and that I hope to see in 2012 (either in the dollar movie theater or on DVD for free from the library):
  • Meek's Cutoff
  • The Help
  • Hugo
  • The Artist
  • A Dangerous Method
  • Certified Copy
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • The Descendants
  • The Tree of Life
  • Melancholia

Did you see any of them in a theater? How was it? Have you read any of the books? I've only read The Help from this list, but I've put a few of the others on my requested list at the library.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The grocery budget


I'm making a goal for 2012 to spend $10 or less per day on food for the family. I haven't tried it yet to see if it works, and I don't know yet if I'll be able to include cleaning products/toiletries/other essentials in that $10. I won't know if I can do it or not until I try it.

The thing is that we already have so much food in the house (both "long-term storage" items and a full refrigerator/freezer and pantry) that I think I can get away with spending less than $10 a day for quite a while. Maybe a month or more. I'm not going to count the cost of items that I already own in the $10. I'm only counting money that I spend in the store starting from yesterday, December 26, 2011.

I will try to remember to blog about it on Saturdays - what I spent on groceries during the week, how I feel about that, what we ate during the week, etc. It will be a change for me, because for the past several years I have been doing the grocery shopping by stocking up on things (for example, buying six months worth of spaghetti sauce) when they went on sale and I won't be able to do as much of that. Now I'll be setting a weekly budget and planning on buying things only for that week. Hopefully it will be fun for me, and I'll get a chance to do some creative menu-planning utilizing some of the food we already own. A happy consequence of this is that it will be a good way to see if I'm storing the right food items for my family.

Gail Vaz Oxlade says that unless you write it down you have no way to track what you spent your cash on. Blogging about it will hopefully help me not only keep track of my spending, but stop me from mindlessly spending money at the store for things that are nice to have but not really necessities.

The truth is that I've spent too much money at the store this year and for the past few years. I want to get us completely debt-free, and tightening up our variable expenses is the place I'm starting. Although I say I don't like shopping, there is definitely both a sort of thrill and a sense of security for me that comes from spending money. I've actually added it up, and in November I spent over $1000 in Walmart and other grocery stores. I have no idea if that was all food because I didn't keep track, but I know it's typical of a usual month. If I can cut that amount even in half, that's $500 a month. In my opinion that is a substantial amount to add to our debt payments each month. And we have a LOT of debt.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

You know your husband is a...


... keeper when you irresponsibly leave your camera in Sweden and he gets you another one, an even better one, for Christmas.

I love my Mr. Dub. He doesn't hold my screw-ups against me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Do you ever worry...


... about the two big "E"s? I'm talking about the Economy and the Environment, of course.

I've been reading some blogs about frugal living lately, and one of the big categories in a house and budget that suck money and resources is cleaning supplies, specifically paper products. Every single day in my house we use:
  1. paper napkins
  2. paper towels
  3. paper diapers
  4. and paper... well... just regular plain ol' paper.

Since I'm a grandmother and not a young mother there is no way that I'm going to deal with cloth diapers. Actually what I'm not going to deal with is the rinsing and the wringing and the soaking in the diaper pail that is an unavoidable part of cloth-diapering.

(I will also say here that some truly frugal and die-hard budgeters/green people use washcloths rather than toilet paper but that is out of the question. I mean, really, that is so not happening here that it's not even an available topic for consideration or discussion. Toilet paper is required here.)

But I'm thinking that cloth napkins and a big pile of clean, white cloths with which to dry and wipe in the kitchen might be a frugal and "green" alternative. I already use cloth dishcloths and dish towels, but we also use a lot of paper towels. A basket of white cloths on the counter ready to mop up spills, wipe faces, dry hands, etc. might be a good idea that could work for us.

So I did what women in the 21st century do - I went online looking for cloth napkins. But I somehow just KNEW that when I was looking online to buy cloth napkins (the ONLY two reasons being so that I can stop spending money on paper all the time and to stop throwing away so much of that paper after a single use) that when the appropriate category is listed as "Table Linens" that is not the kind of site I'm looking for. And sure enough - $56 for 6 napkins.

I went to a different site and found some that were more affordable that I like okay. I didn't buy them yet - I'm waiting. Waiting to see if I want to make them instead. With some couponed fabric and my sewing machine they might be even cheaper.

I'll let you know. Because I just know you are waiting to see how this turns out.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Who's on first?


Every day, or almost every day, I read a few blogs that I've bookmarked in my Favorites. These people write something new every day, or almost every day. I'm going to share one with you each day for a few days.

Maybe you'll find a new favorite!

Today, I'll tell you about Gail Vaz Oxlade. She is a Canadian, but you really shouldn't let that scare you away. She's a financial guru of sorts, probably on par with Suze Orman but more real, more down-to-earth, and not so icky. What is it about Suze that makes my skin crawl? I can't quite figure it out. Anyway, Gail seems like a regular person, and I like her no-nonsense approach. She has had a couple of TV shows which I watch whenever they're on - Till Debt Do Us Part and Princess - and has written a few books. Which I haven't ever read.

You can find her blog here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A poll


Can you now or have you ever been able to do a back flip?

Not me. Not ever. Not on a trampoline or off a diving board. Now I'm too old and chicken to even try.

But if you're not - too old or too chicken that is - check out this site for directions. And when you get the hang of it, show me!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

And all that jazz. I'm over Halloween. It used to be fun for me when my kids were little. I decorated, we had a traditional Halloween dinner (sloppy joes and tater tots), I sewed costumes for the kids, we trick-or-treated around the neighborhood.

I just don't care about it anymore. Avery did look adorable in her fairy ballerina costume, and hopefully she'll bring home a peanut butter cup for her Grammie, but I just wish people would stop ringing my doorbell. Is it possible to be a scrooge about Halloween? That's how I feel this year. Hopefully next year will be better.

(Did I ever mention that I left my camera in Sweden? Yeah, I have no picture-taking capabilities. Maybe I'll get a new one for Christmas? Mr. Dub?)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday


Redeemer of Israel, (Hymns, No. 6, verse 5)

Restore, my dear Savior,
The light of thy face;
Thy soul-cheering comfort impart;
And let the sweet longing
For thy holy place
Bring hope to my desolate heart.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bountiful Baskets


I joined a produce co-op this week, and this morning I picked up my first basket of food. For $15.00 (plus a $1.50 delivery fee) I received in my basket:
  • 3 softball-sized yellow onions
  • 2 big sweet potatoes
  • 1 head of celery
  • 2 heads of green leaf lettuce ( I could have chosen 1 head each of cabbage and lettuce but I already have a head of cabbage in my fridge.)
  • 7 roma tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of broccoli
  • 1 bunch of bananas
  • 1 quart of strawberries
  • 7 limes
  • 1 bag of red seedless grapes (it has two bunches - probably 2 or 3 lbs.)
I am happy with it. It's beautiful produce and I think the value is very good. I can get up to three baskets per week, but we'll see how it goes with the one basket this week. I'm hoping that it will help us eat more fruits and vegetables, and it was fun standing in line this morning chatting with the other ladies. I'm also hoping that it will inspire me to try some new veggies and different recipes. (What am I going to do with 7 limes? Hmmm...) The baskets are, in theory, different each week. I have no reason to doubt that, but since today was the first time I participated I don't know from personal experience. You can check out their website here and see what they're doing. I think we'll keep doing this!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Next week?


My bff D told me the other day that the Houston quilt show is next week. Next week! Last year when I went to the quilt show I made great plans - I was going to save up a million dollars (or some other amount of money) and buy lots of cool fabric and patterns and tools at the quilt show in 2011. So that I could make things and be the kind of person who has interests and skills and maybe even develop some talent.

That hasn't happened. My life has got in my way again.

My life has been doing that a lot lately. Every single week I say to myself that "as soon as this week is over and things settle down, THEN I'll be able to get to it", where "it" is anything from painting rooms and hallways, to making over closets or flower beds or the budget, to writing fun notes to old friends, to getting a handle (finally!) on the visiting teaching and other intricacies of my church job, to having the money both for savings AND a pedicure, to finally and definitively finishing up any of the number of unfinished craft projects I have going on at all times.

Why do I keep telling myself that things will ever settle down? Why do I always believe that one magical day will ever come when I have the time (not to mention the skill set) to actually accomplish something? Additionally I have come to fear that when that blessed, settled-down day is plucked from the future and plunked down in front of today, I will no longer have the inclination or the energy to do anything at all.

People tell me that that day will, in fact, come. I believe them. I know lots of elderly people who have no one who ever calls them, no one who ever needs them, no one who cares what they do with their time or their money. That the day will come when I will have all the time in the world to myself. That I will look back to these over-busy, over-filled, chaotic, crazy and hassle-filled days and long for them again in my life.

I read in a blog the other day about something similar. It was someone that I don't know lamenting that her small child was screaming at her that she hates her. And that people would tell her to enjoy these brief moments because one day - presumably when her kids are grown - she'll miss them. And she said something that really resonated with me: "It's like, I lose now and I lose later."

It's been a whole year since I went to the quilt show with my mom and realized some of the possibilities that are out there for a person like me. And here I am, a whole year later, telling myself that it's not time yet, that things will settle down, that someday I'll do them. Some day. Some day that is later than now.

I fear that "later" will never come for me. I realize that what I'm going through right now today will most certainly change into something else, but I'm afraid that things will only be different, not better. The kids will never be completely raised or independent or happy all at the same time; the house will never be or stay completely clean, decorated, and maintained; the part of the world that I'm responsible for will never be sufficiently organized; all so that I can enjoy some free time to think. Just to think! I need something good to look forward to that is 100% or I might lose my freakin' mind.

Even though all this is not truly about the quilt show or quilting, I guess I will go to the quilt show next week and contemplate my possibilities. I will try to not think about how they are realities for other people.

Other people. That's a whole 'nother post!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What is it now?


That's what I say to myself when the phone rings.

A friend called me today and told me a few things that have me thinking. One of the things she told me was that I hadn't written on my blog for a long time.

There are any number of good reasons for that. I may go into all that at a later date. And then when I logged into Blogger it told me I could redesign my blog.

That made me think even more.

I need to freshen up my blog's design. I think I probably need to freshen up my whole life. On that note, the dryer is calling my name.

There might be changes coming soon to the ol' AmyDubDub.

But don't hold your breath. I'm taking my time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Roast Beef, Medium. A book review.


Roast Beef, Medium. By Edna Ferber.

I had high expectations for this book going in. I was disappointed. I've always heard that Ms. Ferber was one of the original feminist authors and wrote books with strong female characters.

Meh.

Pretty much nothing happens in this book. Although I like the heroine, Emma, I found her life kind of boring and stereotypical. She's thin, beautiful, well-coiffed, well-dressed, young-looking for her age (36), and good at her career. In her spare time she sews the buttons and snaps onto her clothing before they have the chance to fall off. Really? The most daring and radical thing about her is that she's divorced and has a nearly grown son. Scandalous!

I suppose that when this book was written - 1913 - there weren't a lot of women who worked outside their homes, and even fewer who were divorced. Those two things alone may have made this book "feminist". I found it kind of sad that Emma:
  • had to be beautiful to be good at her career, a traveling petticoat salesman. (Petticoats? Really? I find that hilarious.)
  • uses the fact that she's a woman against her male competitors when waiting to call on store's buyers. She not only allows them to always let her go first because she's a lady, she counts on it. So is she truly good at her job, or did she just get in the door first?
  • longs for the simple joys of home and kitchen.
  • has these close women friends who understand her, and so indulge her wholesome desire to put on an apron, a kerchief over her hair, and really get after it with a rag and bucket of soapy water.
Even the title, Roast Beef, Medium refers to the "truth" that when traveling it's better and safer to stick to something that will agree with your digestion, like roast beef, medium, rather than experiment with any fancy sauce or exotic new dish. Better to stick with familiarity and tradition than try something new. This is feminism? Maybe in the early 1900's the "natural order of things" demanded even a feminist writer to declare that if a divorced woman found success and satisfaction in a career outside the home, in her good, womanly heart she secretly had to want to be a homemaker.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a homemaker, mind you. I am one. But it's my choice to do this, and not because it's my place.

Does that make sense? We certainly have come a long way, baby. But do working women today really secretly wish they could be at home tending babies, washing dishes, and shaking out throw rugs?

There was one other character in the book that I found interesting, Blanche LeHay. She is the female lead in a burlesque show, and one conversation that she has with Emma when Emma thinks to pluck Blanche out of her seedy and dis-respectable life is the most insightful part of the book. Emma offers Blanche the opportunity to leave the burlesque and work in the office of her employer, T.A. Buck Featherloom Petticoats. Blanche tells Emma that she is unfit for such a job, in fact she "couldn't hold down a job in a candy factory", and is doing the only thing she's capable of - the burlesque show. Is Emma wiser, or is Blanche? Do women work at those kind of jobs because they are truly unable to do anything else? I don't know but it's the one part of the book that I'm thinking about still, days later. I want to mention that even Blanche, when given the opportunity to have some rare time off, would rather peel a bowlful of potatoes than do anything else. Seriously.

I think I'll need to read more of Ferber's books to come to any conclusion about her other than that she is a product of her times, like all of us. If nothing else, it's interesting to see what was expected of women a century ago.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This whole world


My whole world is wrapped up in one person - my Mr. Dub. Without him, a whole lot of things in my life just don't matter that much.

That is never more apparent to me than when he is feeling under the weather.

I have to remind myself constantly not to hover - Mr. Dub doesn't like to play Twenty Questions when he's feeling poorly.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Is it possible...


...to have too many projects on deck at once? I got a new quilting catalog yesterday, and every time I look at it to remind myself of the price of the ONE project I'm contemplating, I find at least two others I'm likely to talk myself into ordering.

Do you think Mr. Dub would notice if I spent his whole paycheck on quilting supplies/kits?

I think I need someone to talk me down from the ledge. It's not like I don't already have approximately ten or twenty projects either already started or waiting patiently in the wings.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Virtuous Woman


I finished A Virtuous Woman, by Kaye Gibbons.

It's fiction, the story of Jack Stokes and his wife, Ruby. (You get it, right? Ruby? The price of a virtuous woman? )I really liked the book in the beginning. The author uses an interesting technique to let each of the two characters voices be heard, and I thought it was cool, and a mark of her skill as a writer, that each voice is so instantly recognizable.

The story is sad and ends sad. The two main characters have a happy life that contains, as all people's lives contain, some sad and hard things. I don't really like a sad book, because I see enough sadness in the real world around me that I don't want to see more of it when I'm escaping into a book. I know that there have to be sad stories, I just don't want to think about sorrow and grief and despair during my vacation, you know? I guess I just never feel so happy that I need a sad story to bring me back down to reality. I'm usually in the mood to be cheered up and amused. A sad story doesn't make me feel better. It just makes me sad.

I noticed too late that this book is one of Oprah's Book Club books. The public library bar code was covering up the symbol on the cover. Rats. But this one is a bit different from her usual selections. Don't get me wrong - there's infidelity, abuse, rape, poverty, and despair, just like there is in all of Oprah's favorite books. (At least all the ones I've managed to struggle through.) This book's redeeming quality for me is that Jack and Ruby love and care for each other, and the bad stuff is mostly peripheral.

I'll share a quote from the book that rang so true for me, and has stuck with me for the last few days: "...sleeping and awake he had dreamt of Ruby. He needed relief from his night, but holding her pillow and crying as he had done other nights would not help him. His frustration and anger had rooted in and taken hold well below the place where tears start, and so would not be washed up nor out by them."

I've had sadness in my life that was washed away by tears, and I've had sadness that is better defined as anguish and despair, sadness that is below tears. I'm glad I read this sad story - it's helped me to remember to honor the pain I see in other people.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Escapism


I've recently been overwhelmed with a desire to escape my reality. It's not been fun for me (or anyone else, either) and it's not been pretty (have you ever peered into your own dissatisfied soul? Ugh. Lame.). I have never been one to handle change and transition with any kind of grace, and I'm currently bombarded with change and transition.

I've realized that I have to have some coping mechanisms or I'm going to lose it and make everyone unhappy. Here's what I'm doing to manage my stress:

Movies: I used to love movies. I liked that about myself. I've lost that and I'm going to get it back. I watched The Bucket List for the first time the other day. I recorded it on my DVR several weeks ago and finally decided this week that it was time for me to check out for a while. I enjoyed the movie very much, and although it fed my temporary and seemingly desperate need to enact a complete and arbitrary do-over of my ENTIRE life, it was a fun movie. I'd like to make a bucket list. I think a bucket list is something I need in my life.

Books: I used to love to read. I liked that about myself. I've lost that and I'm going to get it back. In the last two weeks I finally finished the second half of The Half-Blood Prince which I started for the second time earlier this spring, and then re-read The Deathly Hallows in its entirety. I went to HP7II a couple weeks ago with my Mr. Dub, and having the scenes from the movie freshly in my mind helped me focus on the details in the book amidst the chaos. I went to the public library today and checked out a couple of novels that look promising. Can I say that leisurely wandering through the aisles of a library is good for what ails you? It has to be leisurely, though. Hurriedly won't do it. Currently on tap is Kaye Gibbon's A Virtuous Woman. So far, so good. I might read all day tomorrow. If my little Butter Butter will let me. : )

Crafts: I'm thisclose to finishing a knitted, pleated skirt for Buttercup that I've been working on for a few weeks. It's a self-patterning yarn in bright blue with small orange flowers - the flowers didn't quite turn out how they were supposed to but it still looks cute. All that's left is to sew down the waistband and insert some elastic and it will be done. On the needles now is an orange cardi to go with the skirt. The yarn is super soft and a bit shiny; the color is "Mango". It looks good enough to eat. I'm chomping at the bit and making lots of plans for other projects that will begin/continue when I'm not in sole charge of my beautiful little Buttercup.

Cooking: Because of my mostly grown and ever more expensive children, (Hello, college tuition and books. Hello, whole new post-mission wardrobe. Hello, moving van+gas and storage unit. Hello, horde of hungry adults. Hello, back-to-school clothes, shoes, and supplies. Hello, TWO new -used- cars+gas+insurance this summer.) because of all that, my grocery budget cannot be exceeded. I've been experimenting with all the food in my storage to come up with good, tasty food to eat every day. Because if it doesn't taste good I don't want to eat it. It's been a creative outlet for me and I'm happy and proud that we're eating well without going over my budget. Even though it's more work, cooking is something I enjoy if I make time to do it properly and I think I'm a little good at it. It's been fun to clean out the fridge and the pantry and turn that all into supper.

I have also been counting my blessings, which are numerous. That helps tremendously. I do know that I have much to be thankful for. I have a healthy, happy family who love me. They don't always appreciate me like they should, but they're perhaps still a little too young to realize that. I have a loving husband who cares about me and hangs in there with me with patience and love no matter how crazy and unbalanced I happen to be at any given moment. I have a home, security, assets. I'm fine, which is practically a miracle when so many people in our nation and our world are not.

I've realized that I don't need a do-over so much as I need to gain a perspective that allows me to see past the next five minutes or so of difficulty. Taking breaks from my work and responsibilities, and doing things for myself are also something that has to happen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm still here


I'm getting my butt kicked by a certain small, sweet someone. I've got tons to do before we pick up our son from his mission, and all the "help" from my little Buttercup slows me down considerably. Not to mention that it is exhausting keeping up with and caring for a small child. She may be the answer to my chronic insomnia. After a summer taking care of her and collapsing into bed early every night so tired that I want to cry, I may have that old insomnia licked.

At any rate, I'm glad I had my babies when I was young.

I have big projects going on that I'm making progress on, and while I have plans for my blog, that is the thing that will just have to patiently sit to one side for now. You know that line about "seasons" in your life...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's not your grandmother's food storage, folks.


As promised, here are a few of my bottles of strawberry lemonade concentrate. These will go on my shelves (Well, they will if I can keep my family out of them for a bit!) Also in my food storage are a couple cases of ginger ale (bought on sale this week) to add a little bit of sparkle to the lemonade after it's reconstituted with water.

I went to the farmer's market today to see if I could find anything to can. Here's a look at what I brought home:


And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some work to do.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Are you a daredevil?


On Saturday we cracked open a jar of the dilly green beans I made a few weeks ago. They are tasty - nice and vinegary with a slight dill flavor. Not mushy, but not crunchy either.

They do pack a wallop. I canned them, per the recipe, with a serrano pepper and a garlic clove in every jar. You don't notice the heat until you're done chewing and swallowing, and then is when it really punches you in the throat.

You're going to need something to drink with these. Fortunately I've made some strawberry lemonade concentrate for my food storage. Come back tomorrow for a look at these beautifully ruby jars!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dinner Idea


I bought an All You magazine a couple of weeks ago to feed my new hobby: couponing*. In the magazine there are all kinds of recipes which I was kind of stoked about. One in particular caught my eye because it uses ingredients I keep in my food storage, namely:
  • green beans
  • salmon
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • salt and pepper
Granted, the recipe calls for fresh green beans and a fresh salmon fillet. Also fresh red potatoes. But I used the green beans I had canned the other day, and 2 cans of boneless, skinless flaked salmon. These are items from my shelves. I bought the red potatoes on sale last week for 59 cents a pound. I thinly sliced** the potatoes and steamed them with a little salt in a steamer basket over boiling water. In a large bowl I combined a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a little apple cider vinegar. (Also a blob of dijon mustard which the recipe did not call for but that I like in a vinaigrette.) I added some salt and pepper and whisked together until blended. (I then tasted it and added a little more canola oil because it needed more oil but it did not need any more spicy or fruity or whatever it is that extra virgin olive oil brings to a dressing.) I added the green beans, the steamed potatoes, and the drained, flaked salmon. It needed a little more pepper after it was all mixed together.

It was good. I was tempted to go back for seconds a couple of times last night, but knew that if I did that then I wouldn't have any leftovers for lunch. Now that it's today and I'll be looking for lunch in a few hours, I'm glad I saved some.



*It bugs me a little bit how some nouns have become verbs in our weird, awesome English language like "couponing" or "texting".

**I think it's hilarious when my favorite TV chef Jamie Oliver slices something thinly and calls it "wafer thin". It's the way he says "wafer", rhyming it with "gaffer".

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Be true


Being true is part of the belief system I adhere to, and some of the rich loveliness of being true is so elegantly described by Mr. Irving:

There is in every true woman's heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity. ~ Washington Irving

It's a quality worth striving for.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Menus


I've finally come up with some menus that I think my family will (mostly) eat, and that I can rotate rarely enough that I'm not sick of eating the same thing over and over again. The purpose of having it all written down is to be able to plan my grocery store sales shopping/couponing into a purposeful trip rather than my usual way of wandering up and down the aisles at the store waiting for something to jump into my cart and say, "Cook me! Cook me!".

I've decided that 25 meal plans per month is enough because it gives me a handful of days every month to eat leftovers or take out. There are other things we have for dinner, but for the purposes of building our food storage these 25 meals X 10 will be our "year's supply". I've set it up so that there is a type of food that we will eat for the five nights in a week but there is lots of flexibility to allow for busy days and seasonal appetites (Beef stew in the middle of summer? Maybe not.):
  • baked
  • stove-top
  • sandwiches
  • soup
  • Tex-Mex
Wanna see?
Baked:
Roasted chicken and veg
Chicken casserole
Lasagna
Quiche
Chicken alfredo pasta and veg

Stove-top:
dirty rice
tuna tetrazzini
pork fried rice with stir-fry veggies
beef stroganoff
spaghetti
Cincinnati-style chili

Sandwiches:
salmon patties
sloppy joes
bbq beef on a bun
chili dogs or chili fries

Soup:
Chicken noodle or rice
Vegetable
Sausage/spinach/white bean
Chunky tomato
Beef stew

Tex Mex:
Tacos
Bean and cheese nachos
Carnitas
Chicken fajitas
Beef enchiladas
Chicken enchiladas

Like I said, there are other meals we regularly eat like various kinds of homemade pizza, baked or pan-fried tilapia, and of course there's the occasional breakfast for dinner, but this is the menu plan I'll be working my shopping list around.

What do you think?

My next job is to create an ingredients list that contains all the things I will need to make these 25 meals then multiply it by ten!

So far, I am loving having my pressure canner. I've canned beef, chicken, and pork and I can tell you that it is a cinch to make dinner when your meat is already thawed and cooked! I've been looking through cookbooks for recipes and can see that a lot of recipes start with "cut the meat into 1 inch cubes and cook." Sweet!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Shelves


They came in! They are nice and strong, and the advertisement said they can hold 350 lbs. per shelf. I don't expect that I'll put that much weight on each shelf, but I'm glad they are sturdy and that they fit so perfectly in the space in the closet I had planned to put them. Because you know I didn't measure it before I ordered the shelves, which I will definitely do next time. I promise.

My bff D came over to admire my shelves and spoke aloud what I had already thought - it looked like a lot more food when it was all piled on my kitchen counter!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Harvest


I've been diligently watering my little container garden through an extremely dry springtime, and it's beginning to pay off.

There are lots of little tomatoes on my tomato plant, I'm hoping that it will keep us in tomatoes all summer! I'm not so confident over the jalapeno plant - this was the only pepper growing there.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I can't live like this


I'm the kind of person who needs the horizontal surfaces in her home free of clutter. It bugs me when things begin to stack up. It bothers me in a way that I can't explain, but it causes anxiety and insomnia when I have things that need to be put away laying in piles around the house.

I ordered some shelves about a week ago that were supposed to arrive today, and today, instead of shelves, I got an email saying that my shipment has been delayed until next Tuesday.

Next Tuesday. For pete's sake. I have to live with this pile on my kitchen counter for another week. Today it feels like my shelves will never come. If they ever do, all these jars will go up in my food storage closet and I'll have my kitchen counter back.

In the pic you can see on the right the ground beef and diced chicken that I canned over the weekend. On the left you can see the roasted reds I did this morning.

(My camera takes strange pics. My kitchen counter is every bit as white as the tile backsplash but in all my pictures, it looks beige.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Inventory


One of last month's jobs was to create an inventory sheet of items needed for a year's supply of food and other stuff my family uses and needs, and organize those things.

I've been working on it and I'm still working on it. It's a really, Really, REALLY big job because I want to acquire and organize these things in an orderly, cost-effective way rather than a random or expensive way. This means figuring out what we actually use and eat, creating menu plans and then breaking down those recipes into ingredient lists in order to form shopping lists, taking into account what I already have in the house, and so on. I wonder to myself as I'm doing this if people who are in the habit of making a weekly or monthly menu and shopping from it would have an easier time of this. I've tried (resolved?) so many times to make menu plans and shopping lists but even though I'm kind of rigid in that I like to know what's going to happen to me on any given day, and have a hand in arranging it, if possible, I eventually forget about my menus and go back to my old way of winging it when it comes to what we're having for dinner tonight or tomorrow or next week.

So anyway I've been making this inventory list of things we need and organizing it by categories. This morning I've been working on my Health and Beauty category because I've scored some amazing deals this week (and so my bathroom closets are filling up) by doing a more moderate form of Extreme Couponing. (Some time I'll blog about the meeting I went to that featured as a guest speaker one of TLC's Extreme Couponing chicks. It was way cool and very helpful and informative.)

Back to my list. (See how I get off task so easily? If people were asked to think of one word that describes me, I think most of them would say "tangent". I recently read an article on MSNBC that people who are able to focus on one thing at a time are generally more happy people than those people whose minds wander. I need brain training. STAT.) To create my Health and Beauty category for my inventory list I mentally went through my "getting ready" routine, and that of my husband's and children's, and listed all the products we use. Then I went through my actual bathroom closets and medicine cabinets to see what else was there that we use and need, but maybe not every single day. I want everything on my list, so that when stuff goes on sale and I have coupons for them, I can shop for the items we are short on.

Are you ready to see the list? The length of it is nothing short of astonishing.
  • soap
  • body wash
  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • mousse
  • hair gel
  • mens deodorant
  • womens deodorant
  • mens shavers
  • shaving cream
  • womens shavers
  • body lotion
  • vaseline
  • facial cleanser
  • facial moisturizer
  • toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  • dental floss
  • mouthwash
  • hand soap
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm
  • nail clippers
  • emery boards
  • Q-tips
  • vitamins
  • feminine wash
  • supers
  • regulars
  • foot powder
  • benadryl
  • tylenol
  • ibuprofen
  • allergy meds
It's a lot of stuff just to get ready in the morning, and I've always considered our family to be pretty low maintenance!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's soup weather


But don't worry - it will be back to popsicle weather by the weekend.

I made a pot of soup for dinner last night that was so tasty I decided I'd share the "recipe":

  • 1/2 package of sausage (the breakfast kind, that you would form into patties before cooking)
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed (I used my newly-canned beans!)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 or 3 big handfuls of baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


Cook and stir the sausage and onion in a soup pot in a little olive oil until the sausage is broken up into smallish pieces and cooked through and the onion is softened but not brown. Add the chicken stock and stir up any bits that are stuck to the bottom. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the beans, thyme, red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 or 20 minutes. Add the spinach and the parmesan cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve hot with cornbread. I'm sure you know that when you eat beans and grains (like rice or corn) together at the same meal, that it enhances the quality protein value of the meal. I have been feeling desperate for protein lately - eating things like boiled eggs for lunch and peanut butter toast for breakfast. This soup/cornbread supper filled me up and made me feel good inside.

I had a bowl of this soup for lunch today and it is even better the second day. Looking forward to it again tomorrow!

Items used in this soup that are "food storage" items:
chicken stock
canned diced tomatoes
home-canned white beans
herbs and other seasonings

Cornbread "food storage" ingredients:
flour
corn, ground into meal by my Little Friend
powdered milk
sugar
baking powder
and homemade strawberry freezer jam

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's a lot of work


I learned that in my adventure yesterday. And it took much longer than I expected. And the pressure canner made me exceedingly nervous. But at the end of a long day, I have 16 pints of shelf-stable, ready-to-eat beans.

Although I won't let it stop me from continuing, I sincerely hope that the work, time and anxiety lessen over time as I get used to it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Beans, beans, the musical fruit


Well, you know the rest.

I went to a preparedness fair on Saturday and got lots of information. So much information, in fact, that it's taking me a while to process a lot of it.

One thing I saw, although the idea has been percolating in my head for a while, is pressure-canning dried beans. (I am able to get on this right away because I've already been thinking about it for a while. Are you like that at all? I only have the nerve to do it because I've already thought about it and decided to do it, and have now met someone in person who's done it.) I have cases and cases of dried beans in my food storage that we rarely ever eat because it is such a hassle, for me anyway, to cook them.

Have I ever been guilty of buying a can of beans when I have perfectly good dried beans in boxes upstairs? Uhhhh, no comment.

So on the kitchen counter we have beans soaking in anticipation of canning them in my new toy later this afternoon. Tune in again tomorrow to see my finished results!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A little bit of this and that


When I was a teenager I was cast in the chorus of our small town's community theater's production of Fiddler on the Roof. It was a memorable experience for me, and included many members of my immediate family as well as some good friends. I have a picture somewhere of the whole cast and crew. I should look for it and post it here.

My Mr. Dub came home from Kuwait yesterday. I don't think he enjoyed this trip very much. Usually he comes home with interesting stories and things to talk about. This time he has only mentioned a couple of the other guys he worked with, and a bit about the weather. One other interesting thing he said was that Kuwaitis go camping in the months of January through March 31st and when they return to their homes they leave their furniture out in the desert. As in, couches, love seats, chairs, end tables, and the like. He said that driving from the airport to the camp where he was staying there was furniture everywhere along the side of the road. That's odd, don't you think? We guess that maybe when you go camping for three months you take your furniture because you don't want to sit on folding camping chairs the whole time. But when you're ready to go home, you don't want the furniture that's been outside in the desert back inside your house.

Today I made some apple preserves with the rest of the apples I bought on sale at Kroger this week. They are canned in a cinnamon-sugar sauce, and the author of the cookbook recommends using the apples in apple tarts. That sounds good to me today. I think they will also be good stirred into oatmeal or with abelskivers.

Abelskivers are a type of Danish pancake thing. We always have them on Christmas morning, and occasionally on a random Sunday morning. Mr. Dub likes his abelskivers with apple pie filling, because the "abel" in abelskivers means "apple" in Danish. I've tried to tell him that real Danes (i.e. my family) eat their abelskivers with jam or pancake syrup but he's not deterred. I like them with butter and plum jam.

Plum jam is something I'd like to try making this year.

Today I finished sewing together all the mittens I've knitted to this point. Did you forget about my mitten project? Did you think I had forgotten about it? I sort of lost interest in it for awhile, but someone at Church encouraged me to finish them and helped me out with some of the sewing and I've been hard at it for the past week or so. Tonight I finished the last two pairs, and I think it comes to about 30 pairs total. I've lost track of the exact count, but I've decided to start counting again at 30 pairs. I know it's at least that many. I still have a way to go to reach 100 pairs, but that's okay - it's not a race. We've been sending them in to Humanitarian Services as I finish them. Somewhere there are cold little children putting on a pair of warm, hand-knitted mittens that I made. That makes me feel good. And I'm grateful for the nudge I got to finish them.

I'm trying to get in the habit, again, of using my time more wisely and productively in hopes that I will be so tired at night that I'll be able to fall asleep. So projects are getting done, and I think I could can something every day for the next little while at least, and enjoy it. For now I'm out of anything to can, but I did see a recipe that makes grape jelly out of bottled Welch's grape juice and there just happens to be some of that in my pantry...but I already have grape jelly. I don't need any more.

Too bad.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's a strawberry kind of day


Today I made strawberry freezer jam which is one of my most favorite foods. A friend of my Little Prince came by to see him and she helped me for a little while. It was very cute and fun to see her shock and amazement that people who can afford to buy jam from the store would make it. (I run into that sort of attitude quite a bit, actually. I find it a little disturbing. For many reasons, only one being that you cannot buy freezer jam at the store and its sweet, fresh fruit flavor is superior to cooked jam.) She told me all about how her dad's family used to make jam when he was a little boy because they were so, SO poor. I bought two quarts of strawberries on sale at Kroger the other day, and have made enough jam, I think, to feed the whole world jam and toast.

Anyway, this girl had fun making jam with me. I think she was excited to see that a thing like making your own jam is something that some people do. She said she'd be back tomorrow to get the jar of homemade jam I offered her as payment for her help. I hope she does come by for it, and learns that some things, like making homemade jam, feed the body and the soul.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

a peek at the goods


In the last 24 hours I've made:
  • 5 pints of dilly beans and
  • 5 half-pints of spiced apple chutney
The chutney is SO good. Apples, craisins, allspice, curry powder, mustard seeds and other delicious things. It's tangy and a bit sweet and quite spicy, but not the hot kind of spicy. Just very flavorful and tasty. Today we've been eating it on crackers with a little bit of cheddar. It takes cheese and crackers to a place I've never been before. It will also be great with goat cheese or cream cheese and crackers. Next time apples are on sale I'm making more of this stuff. Because those four little jars, which is all we have left, will never last a whole year.

The pickled green beans are supposed to sit and marinate for a couple of weeks before we crack them open. I had a handful of beans that wouldn't fit in the jars and let them soak for a few minutes in the leftover brine to try them. I think they'll be good. I canned them with a serrano chili and a clove of garlic in each jar. They will be spicy and hot, I think.

Also in the picture are two jars that have dried chili peppers in them. I bought a Foodsaver on eBay for super cheap and have been vacuum sealing different things in mason jars. My Little Friend and I did an experiment to determine the degree of fun this gadget will provide and he gave it a 3 out of 10 - not that fun. But I have to say that he comes running in order to be the one who pushes the button whenever I have it out.

It's been a fun day. And I have something to show for it. What a great combination!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here I go...


Kroger has green beans on sale ~ 10 lbs for $10. It's like a sign from the universe, don't you think?

Garlicky, pickled green beans, coming right up!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ten good things


I'm taking my cue from SouleMama today, and simply listing ten good things:
  1. Sweet Pea -scented anything from Bath & Body Works
  2. Cinnamon toast
  3. Three tomatoes on my tomato plant
  4. Scotch tape
  5. New cookbooks
  6. Birdsong in the early morning
  7. Anticipating a package coming in the mail today
  8. Feeling a freshly mopped kitchen floor under my bare feet
  9. Red petunias
  10. Finishing a project.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!


That Easter Morn, Hymns,#198

That Easter morn, a grave that burst
Proclaimed to man that "Last and First"
Had ris'n again
And conquered pain.

This morn renews for us that day
When Jesus cast the bonds away,
Took living breath
And conquered death.

Thus we in gratitude recall
And give our love and pledge our all,
Shed grateful tear
And conquer fear.


This hasn't ever been my favorite Easter song because it's not beautiful in an obviously typical "beautiful" way. And I am all about the obvious. But the words hit home today, and I'm grateful to be one of those who love the Lord.

The choir sings it here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

busy little bee


Well, almost. I've been busy making plans and getting ready to keep myself busy this summer. I bought the pressure canner pictured above and have collected and washed lots of jars. I've looked through a lot of canning cookbooks. And now I'm almost ready to start.

Even though my new toy came with directions, I'm nervous about it. I've never seen anyone use a pressure canner before. I'm not excited about the idea of having to boil everything for ten minutes before we can eat it. I'm not even sure if that old rule still applies. So I called my county extension office and talked to the agent and she is going to walk me through it and fill me in on all the juicy details on Monday afternoon.

I'm really looking forward to meeting a new person and learning a new skill. Not to mention trying some new recipes. Because I am sick to death of everything I normally eat. It's weird. For reasons that I cannot explain I am craving home-canned spiced peaches. I don't think I've ever had them before so although it's a mystery where this is coming from it fits in to my "sick of everything I've ever eaten" phase. Lucky for me peaches aren't quite in season yet, I have some time to figure it out!

(Oh, and I think the dark cloud that's been following me around for the last couple of months is edging away from me a bit. In case you were wondering.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Oh, the internet


It's amazing what you can sometimes find on the internet.

I went to a food storage class last week and the instructor showed us, kind of, how to make these nifty cardboard can rotator/organizer box things. More importantly she gave out a paper with all the measurements and a diagram of how the inside of the box glues together. Since I had seen one all put together and I have the details, I thought I would give it a shot.

(Disclaimer: You can buy a commercial version of these on the internet for about $4 each, plus shipping. It's a lot less trouble, I'm sure.)

It was kind of a fun project. There is a learning curve, and my good friend K had to show me how to use glue properly, but I think that now that I have the hang of it, I will continue to make them for pretty much free out of the sturdy cardboard boxes that we occasionally get. It's okay with me if it takes a while to complete this organizing project and you can't beat free. I'd rather spend the $4 (each! plus shipping!) on food storage items.

While looking for the complete directions on the internet I came across several blogs that feature these cool little contraptions. One guy paints his and said it strengthens the cardboard significantly, so I'm considering doing that to mine in the future. The one I made seems very sturdy, and since it won't be moved around much once I get it on the shelf it seems like it would be fine, but if it could last for years and years, that would be cool. At the class I went to the demonstrator had decorated some of hers with either scrapbook paper or by letting her children color them, but I decided that since mine will be going up on closet shelves (and so I won't be able to really see into the box) that I would tape a can label on the front of the box to identify its contents. I really like how it looks, too - kind of like a fancy grocery store! Is that lame?

This was a good project for me. I've been in a kind of dark and lonely place lately. I don't know what's wrong, and when I think about it very much, I realize that nothing is wrong. I just don't feel like myself lately. Maybe it has to do with the misery that is springtime allergies complemented with practically no sleep (it's tough to get a good night's sleep when you wake up every 10 minutes to blow your nose), or maybe it's a touch of depression. But going to the class (even though I didn't want to) and learning something new (even though I didn't want to) and gathering the supplies (even though I would rather have watched a little more too much TV) and then actually completing a project from start to finish (even though I wanted to give up when it got tricky) has made me feel a little bit better today.

Thank you, internet.

If you want to see another example and some similar instructions click here. There's a video on that site that shows how the box works, too. Hers shows a notch cut out of the sides that I didn't remember or understand about from the demonstration I saw. I will definitely do that next time to make it easier to remove the cans. If you'd like a copy of the schematics sheet I have, leave me a comment or email me your address.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How does your garden grow?


Look! See my adorable little tomato blossoms? That's the happy news. The sad news is that the cilantro and dill, after surviving only two weeks in my yard, are already going to seed. I hope this only means that they are cool-season crops and can't take temps in the 80's and 90's and so I'm trying to not take it personally - I think I'll yank them out and plant more parsley and basil. Yes, it's already been in the upper 80's here. I won't think about what that might mean for summertime.

My preparedness jobs for April are as follows:
  1. Organize and inventory three-month food supply.
  2. Check 72-hour kits for expired items and replace as needed.
It might as well be said here and now that for me #2 should read "Make some 72-hour kits, you!" We did this years ago, maybe even as much as 15 years ago, when our big, grown-up and adult offspring were tiny, sweet little children. We eventually dismantled them in an attempt to replace expired items, the project got set aside to take care of later, yada, yada, yada, and so now we start again from scratch.

Our ward is promoting a "72 in 72" event, started a couple of weeks ago, where we get together a 72 hour kit for each person in our own family in the 72 days left until hurricane season begins. This week I'm gathering and/or obtaining containers for the 72-hour kits and deciding where to keep them. Will it be duffel bags or 5 gallon buckets? In the garage or the hall closet? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Live long and be thrifty


Did you know that the root of the word "thrift" comes from the word "thrive"?

In other words, well-being and prosperity. Thrifty doesn't mean cheap. It means thoughtfully using your resources in a way that will bring you the most satisfaction over the long-term.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March to-do list


Another Mormon congregation in my area has suggested monthly tasks for their Relief Society to do in order to become better prepared and self-reliant. An organized and systematic way to learn and practice living more providently over the course of a year. I'm going to do my best to keep up with them, and I hope that writing about my efforts and results here will give me some sense of accountability.

(Also, I hope that it will serve as a reminder that I'm doing this year-long project. Because I fear that I'll get halfway through and forget about it. Or maybe not even halfway through. Maybe I'll forget about the whole thing by later this afternoon. Things don't seem to stick lately. It's disturbing. But I digress.)

For March the job is simple. Start a garden.

Knowing my limitations both in attention span and ability to withstand long hours working outside in the hot summer sun, I decided a container garden will do. I thought about it, realized that tomatoes and peppers are what I most like to eat as far as fresh veggies go, added in my desire to use more fresh herbs in my cooking, and got started. I begin with:
  • a single roma-style tomato plant.
  • two varieties of peppers - bell and jalapeno.
  • chives
  • basil
  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • dill
Start a garden? Done.

(I may as well confess right here and now that it's not only that I do want to use more fresh herbs in my cooking, I greatly fear that birds, insects, drought, and disease will impede my progress and success with growing vegetables. In order to not be a complete failure at gardening, herbs have been added to the container garden.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

More reflection


My mother wrote on her blog the other day and said something that has moved my sense of self off-kilter. I've heard her say it before, but this time it registered. She said she thinks she has Asperger's Syndrome. Not a severe case, in fact more "normal" than not, but that she feels that many of the symptoms of Asperger's fit her. Everyone knows that my dad was bi-polar, and quite debilitated by it.

I only know a couple of people who have been diagnosed with Asperger's and they are both hard to reach. One of them I know better than the other because I taught her every day in seminary for 3 years. She was unable to discuss with me or the other students in the class how she felt or what she thought about anything more personal than something like, say, the weather. She didn't make eye-contact with me during discussions, and deflected questions by looking down and away and shrugging and withdrawing into herself. I didn't take it personally because I knew that it was more the Asperger's than it was a personal dislike of me or even simply a case of hard-to-reach-teenager. This girl is super intelligent and is easy to get along with, but can't quite let you know her at any deeper level.

So after I read my mom's blog the other day, I started imagining what it would be like to have someone like this young woman as a mother. And as I went on with this mental exercise I realized that with a mother with Asperger's and a father with so tenuous a grasp on reality, I really have no clue what is true about myself. Things I "know" about who I truly am deep down inside might be false.

Now, it's completely true that I am 45 years old (for a few more days, anyway) and that I am responsible for my own thoughts and actions. But if from the time that I was born I was interacting with and responding to parents with these particular kinds of problems, it's no wonder that I have at my core serious doubts about my worth as a human being and whether or not I am lovable. I think it goes beyond low self-esteem and may be why all those positive affirmation exercises taught to me by counselors and therapists feel so outrageously ridiculous and fake. Because in spite of all the people who love me and accept me as a valuable person, deep down inside I "know" that their love and acceptance is more about how good they are, not how good I am. It's why I can't accept a compliment with any kind of grace, and why I "know" that people really just don't understand whenever they give kudos for something I've done.

It makes a big lump rise up in my throat. I know it's something I have to figure out for myself.

Friday, March 4, 2011

spring chores


I've been out working in the yard this week. We had a couple of hard freezes this year, which hardly ever happens, and my plants are showing a lot of freeze damage. The grass is starting to turn a beautiful shade of green and the weeds are nothing short of emerald but everything else looks kind of sad.

Or so I thought.

While weeding, pruning, and mulching in the big flowerbed in the backyard, I happened upon these oxalis clumps again. Shamrocks! And just in time for St. Patrick's Day. They aren't damaged at all, and it was a nice surprise to see them. Then I remembered that later on this spring they'll have small pink flowers, and it made me happy.

Ah, springtime!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reflection


I've read a couple of blogs already this morning and especially noticed how often so many people proclaim what they are passionate about. I find this fascinating because although there are many things that I enjoy doing or for some finite period of time become totally engrossed in, there isn't anything that I can point to and say, "This is my passion". Not counting my Mr. Dub, of course.

Most of my life seems to be taking care of whatever has presented itself for immediate attention, and my down time is spread thinly between crafting of one type or another, reading, home improvement and cooking TV shows, and surfing Facebook.

(Re: Facebook - I'm quickly becoming disillusioned. I am tired of Facebook. It has ceased to be fun for me. The only reason I still go there at all is because that's where my friends and family are.)

I hope that there is something yet to come in my life that captures my interest to the point that I become passionate about it. Because I don't want to admit to anyone, and least of all to myself, that I'm superficial, flighty, or bored. I envy those who have found something that really calls to them.

The good thing about me is that I'm willing to try new things. I hope this means that I will eventually find something to be passionate about.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

roller coaster ride


Dizzying heights followed by lows so startling that my stomach lurches. I know it must be me because everybody in the world can't be impossible at the same time, right?

I think I need a time out.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Some days...


...it's all I can do to just sign in to Blogger.

Seriously. I want to be witty, I want to be light-hearted, I want to be calm and happy and fulfilled. And there are moments and brief flashes of all of that. My Little Friend said to me the other day, "You haven't done your blog in a long time." You know, in case I hadn't noticed.

I'll spare you all the gory details. It just doesn't deserve bandwidth. Some things have got to change. I know exactly what needs to change, but I feel like I'm in mortal combat with my enemy, and I'm not sure I have enough integrity to fight on and make those changes.

Either that or my period is coming on with a vengeance.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Never say never


I did something yesterday I thought I would never do.

I made my own laundry soap. Oh yes, I did. It seems like such a...I dunno...such a denim jumper-wearing, home-birthing, fundamentalist thing to do. Doesn't it? I don't know. But I'm trying to reduce the amount of dangerous chemicals in my home because I think they are killing me and Jake. Sometimes I can't breathe when I'm cleaning, and it takes days for my hands to recover after scrubbing a bathtub or shower. I am also trying to save money.

Here's the recipe:

1 bar fels naptha soap
1 cup borax
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup baking soda

Grate the bar of soap in the food processer. Add the remaining ingredients with the grated soap into the work bowl and process with the blade until powdered. Store in a container with a lid. Use 2 tablespoons per wash load.

It looks like regular, granulated laundry detergent. It works great. It smells fresh. It was easy to find all the ingredients at Walmart or Ace Hardware store.

And it was super cheap! I doubled the recipe, which made enough for 56 (or so) loads of laundry. I spent less than $8 on the ingredients, and I still have most of the boxes of borax and washing soda left. So when I'm out of laundry soap, I'll buy two more 97 cent bars of the soap and make enough for 56 more loads for less than $2. I can probably do this at least three times more with what's left of the washing soda and borax. The whole process was easy and took about 5 minutes. I found a metal 2 tablespoon measuring cup at Walmart so using the detergent is easy.

Because you know if it's not fast and easy I'm not going to do it.

In our Relief Society meeting next Thursday we are going to make different kinds of homemade cleaners, including this one, so I've been experimenting and looking around for availability of the items we'll need. I'm going to do all the math and figure out exactly how much it costs to make these things and how it compares to the cleaners and detergents you can buy at the store.

One that I am kind of excited about is 1/2 cup baking soda mixed with 1/2 cup kosher salt and a drop or two of essential oil. This makes a scrubbing powder similiar to Comet or Ajax. I'll be interested to see if it dries out and hurts the skin on my hands like Comet does.

I'll let you know the results of all my experiments.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm not like other people


Most people are satisfied with having a kitchen junk drawer. Not me.

I also have a kitchen junk cabinet.

Like a junk drawer, a junk cabinet requires regular maintenance. I cleaned mine out this morning because it wasn't working for me anymore. Because every time I tried to dig out some scotch tape, a bottle of glue would fall into the butter that lives by the toaster on the counter below this cabinet. Cleaning butter off glue bottles becomes tedious more quickly than you might think.

Here is an inventory of items that belong in the junk cabinet starting on the bottom shelf:
  • cookbooks
  • mailing envelopes
  • disinfecting spray (The kitchen trash sits right in front of this cabinet. We spray the can every time we take out the trash and before putting a new garbage bag back in the can.)
  • grout sealer
  • a bottle of goo-gone
  • more cookbooks, and also some instructional dvds and videos (for things like my grain mill and sun oven)
  • packing tape
  • scotch tape
  • a big box of crayons for big, responsible kids who know what they're doing
  • in the black and red Avia shoebox are my craft supplies for kids. Things like watercolor paints, small boxes of crayons for little kids, fun stickers, glue sticks and colored pencils. Also the remnants of opened boxes of pens and mechanical pencils. Also a spare pencil sharpener. Also some extra leads and erasers for the mechanical pencils.
  • a super-duper, mega box of crayons that is only mine. Because I need that in my life. I don't know why, I just do. If I let you use crayons from this box then you'll know I really love you. And trust you.
  • extra, unopened boxes of pens, mechanical pencils, and highlighters.
  • almost every kind of glue you can think of: gorilla glue, krazy glue, super glue, E-6000, tacky glue, school glue, and gel glue for paper.
  • a bottle of white-out. Why do I have this?


None of this stuff is out of place - it all belongs here, and everyone in the family knows right where to go when they need one of these things. It's a strange combination. Sort of like a cooking/school supplies/office supplies/household supplies kind of place.

I need to get a couple of small trays or shallow baskets to keep my glues together. All those small bottles and tubes get jumbled around and it's hard to pull one out without knocking the others over or sending some falling down into the butter.

While cleaning out the cabinet this morning I discovered that I don't have any markers. I've had markers in my house since my Pretty Girl was a toddler. I'll write "markers" on my shopping list for the next time I go to the store. Because little Buttercup will soon be old enough to color with markers and it would be tragic for a Grammie to not have any. Have you seen these markers? You could die from so much cuteness:

(It has not escaped my attention that my blog has become boring. While recently suffering through an acute insomnia attack I was reading back over some old blog posts. I used to be more fun. More interesting. More...well... just more. Now I'm reduced to listing in great detail the contents of my kitchen cabinets. Maybe it's time to step away from the computer and have some real life? Somehow I seem to have lost my way.)