Sunday, September 30, 2012

New dinner recipe

Last week I auditioned this Bayou Chicken Pasta for a "pantry" meal. I've been looking for recipes that can use either fresh or freeze-dried/dehydrated/canned ingredients so that I can make them no matter how long it's been since I last went to the store.

Below is the recipe as it's written (with my notes in italics).

Bayou Chicken Pasta - serves 6-8

16 oz. linguine (I used spaghetti. It would also be fine with penne.)
1/4 cup salt
2 tbs garlic oil (olive oil)
2 12.5 oz cans chicken (1 pint bottled chicken)
2 tbs Emeril's Essence seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 cup freeze dried onion flakes (I used a small fresh onion, chopped, and 3 green onions, sliced that needed to be used up)
4 tsp dried chives
1/2 cup water (I never used this. Maybe it's meant to rehydrate the onions?)
1 7 oz. can diced green chiles (I used a small green bell pepper because I had one that needed to be used up)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (I used two cloves of minced fresh garlic)
2 cans evaporated milk (mine were the 12 oz size. I was happy to find another recipe that calls for canned milk!)
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained (the fire-roasted kind are my favorite)
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water (I didn't need this)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (shredded, but grated would work just as well)
1 tbs dried parsley

(I also added 4 stalks of chopped celery because it seemed like the right thing to do.)

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Before draining reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.
While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce: season the chicken with 1 tbs Essence seasoning and 1/2 tsp. salt and brown it over medium heat in 1 tbs. garlic oil (I skipped this entire step and just added the chicken at the end, seasoning to taste.) Add a tbs. oil to a skillet and cook onions, chives, garlic, and chiles (and the celery and bell pepper). Add the milk, 1 tbs. Essence seasoning, and  remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and heat over medium heat until sauce is boiling and reduced by half, stirring constantly. Stir in the chicken, the drained pasta, and the tomatoes and heat through. If necessary, add the pasta water. (Mine was a little bit too thin already because I wasn't sure how long you should boil the sauce and I was in a hurry because I was hungry. After it cooled it thickened up quite a bit.) Add the parmesan cheese and dried parsley flakes. Serve immediately.

This was an easy and very tasty meal. Everyone who ate it enjoyed it. I think I will put it in our regular dinner rotation.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Last week's goals - report

This past week I wanted to:
  • Sow some parsley and cilantro seeds outside. Didn't happen.
  • Find and prepare two new recipes that rely on shelf-stable ingredients, or that can be altered to use them in place of fresh ingredients. Hot Ham Rolls and Bayou Chicken Pasta. One was a flop, the other a keeper. Stay tuned for additional details.
  • Make a final decision and send in Hershey's order form/check. Done!
  • Paint the closet in James's bedroom. Not even started.
  • Sand the windowsill and closet shelves in James's room. Didn't get to it. Won't likely get to it in the near future.
  • Work on yellow/gray/white quilt top. I worked on it a very little bit. But any progress is some progress, right?
  • Organize small box of photos into scrapbook-able piles. Not yet. This must be accomplished sooner rather than later.
  • Sort through scrapbook supplies. Completed!
  • Study grocery sale ads and begin a "best price" book. Started it, and then started wondering if it is even worth it. It might be worth it if I can get a grip on how to make/use an Excel spreadsheet. At this point it just seems humongous and difficult. It may be more practical  (and certainly easier!) for me to use a notebook and a pencil.
  • Buy a book to read at the used book store. Nope.
  • Study Spanish vocab with Jake. Told him to study several times but didn't work on it with him.
There were a few things that came up this week that took precedence over the goals I had written down:
  1. My Pretty Girl got a full-time job last Friday and started it four days later; one entire day of those four was spent shopping for a career-appropriate wardrobe for her. What this new job of hers means for me is that I have a two year old on my hands for about 12 hours/day three days this last week and every week in the foreseeable future. (Hopefully not more than a month or two.) Additionally this sweet little sister hasn't slept very well with all the changes going on in her life so I've spent a couple of hours every night this week caring for her instead of sleeping. Which negatively affected my energy levels during the days.
  2. I also had an opportunity to buy some chicken for a good price so spent a whole day tied to the kitchen trimming, dicing, and pressure-canning the chicken.
  3. I worked on the sacrament meeting program for our ward's primary.
I am okay with the things I didn't do. The painting and repair/improvements around the house aren't realistically going to happen until Buttercup is out from under my feet every day. I will add the other things to next week's goals.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


No, not that Tangled.

My sweet little Buttercup got out of the shower this morning with a snarly mess instead of her usual smooth, wavy long hair. I knew her mama would be in a hurry to get out of the house, and I also knew it would take time and effort and probably lots of tears to get all the tangles out of Buttercup's hair.

I remembered seeing a recipe somewhere for homemade detangler solution, and went on the hunt for it. Sure enough, it was right on my blog list: One Good Thing by Jillee.

I love her blog. She makes all kinds of cool things that cost practically nothing with stuff I might actually already have on hand. Her post today is about making popcorn in the microwave with regular popcorn and a bowl. No more "microwave popcorn" with unpronounceable ingredients wrapped in toxic packaging that will likely kill you one day.

You should definitely check Jillee's cool site.

Anyway, this morning we had everything we needed to make some homemade detangling spray for Buttercup. It works great! All you'll need is a little bit of regular ol' hair conditioner, some tap water, and a spray bottle.

Walmart charges more than $2 for a bottle of detangler and I'll tell you a secret - it's mostly water!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In which there is a little bump in the road

I tried a new recipe last night that I was so excited about. It is one that I found on the Internet, has shelf-stable ingredients, and is different in a way that I'd never thought of before. It is something that some other family eats all the time.

Hot Ham Rolls. I figured they'd be delicious. They consist of a ham filling rolled up inside a biscuit. Think of a cinnamon roll but with biscuit dough, and ham and mushrooms inside.

I had this all worked out in my mind. I've sourced canned ham. I've looked into how to pressure can ham myself. I tried to find out when hams might go on sale so that I might make this as frugally as possible. I've researched powdered shortening and determined for health reasons that I would use powdered butter instead. Which I just happen to have a #10 can full of, and have been looking for a reason to use it.

My family would love it, and I'd be a superstar.

Except we didn't love it. It's not that it was awful, it just wasn't great. Not something where anyone would say "YAY!" when I said it's ham rolls for dinner. It was pretty bland, and the biscuit part wasn't wonderful. Maybe because of the butter powder instead of the shortening powder? I don't know for sure but I'm not quite ready yet to blame the butter.

I've decided to try it with a raised yeast dough instead. I have a dinner roll recipe that is never-fail for me, and while I was standing there thinking about it last night I realized that not only do I have butter powder, I have egg powder and milk powder too, so it is possible that I could blend everything in the recipe together into a kind of hot roll mix, have it pre-measured and ready to just-add-water, and the whole thing would be super fast and easy when it came time to make dinner. I would have to give them time to raise, it is true, but if we actually like them it might be worth the time. Would it need to be refrigerated? I don't know. I do keep my yeast in the fridge. I need to think about this and experiment a bit.

I'm also going to work on the filling. It needs some kind of vegetable and more flavor.

In the end, I still like the idea of hot ham rolls but the recipe needs to be reworked to suit our tastes. I'm very glad I tested the recipe first before making it something we will always have in our 3 month food storage rotation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


This sweet little sister asked me to please take her picture when she saw me with my camera, but then couldn't quite tear her eyes away from the television...

What a love.

Today she started saying "Take me to your leader".

She's a love and a nut.

Monday, September 24, 2012


I've been getting ready to go on a crazy adventure that people are calling a "retreat". This "retreat" is a weekend away from home to work on scrapbook pages.

Preparing for the "retreat" is making a lot of mess and taking a lot of time and mental energy. I will need a real vacation when it is over. What I've done so far:
  1. Sorted scrapbook paper.
  2. Purged paper I no longer want and
  3. organized what I am keeping.
  4. Sorted photos.
  5. Purged photos of any that were blurry, dark, or contained unidentifiable or forgotten subject matter. Also any that were superfluous, ie. multiple shots of the exact same thing. Also any photos capturing an event that I've already scrapbooked.
  6. Got about halfway through sorting/purging/organizing embellishments.
  7. Organized my scrapbooking tools and gear, including testing all my scrapbooking pens to see which ones had dried out. Made a mental note to be more selective about what I want/buy in the future.
  8. Straightened and neatened up the scrapbook supply organization system I have.
I may be sick and tired of the whole thing by the time I'm done and this "retreat" will not be any fun at all, but simply something to endure.

To top it off, I can't remember the last time anyone looked at one of my scrapbook albums.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How it's going so far

Remember this post?

I'm here to report that it's going just swimmingly. We still have the same mostly-full package of paper napkins that we had last December (I've used a few to grease an occasional baking dish).
The cloth napkins I made from unused flat sheets I had on hand are not perfect but they are usable. I wish they were softer and more absorbent - 100% cotton or something like that - but they'll do for now. I will hopefully remember to be on the lookout for a large piece of cotton cloth at the thrift store to make napkins with when these wear out.

The large white washcloths that we are using in place of paper towels work great. I started with 40 and have never once ran out before it was time to wash a load of whites. I have put a couple of them into the rag pile because they got stained. For some reason it is more acceptable to me to scrub a bathtub with a stained white rag than it is to dry a dish or wash a sweet little face with a stained white rag. So the stained ones have moved to the rag pile, and we still have plenty of clean ones to use in the kitchen. Barring some disaster I think I will not have to buy more for at last another year.  I've used one to two rolls of paper towels so far this year - of the 10 rolls I started with last December I have six that are still unopened, and three that are partially used. I'm still using paper towels to take care of super messy or greasy or icky jobs like:
  • covering bacon while it cooks in the microwave or
  • lining the plate while I'm frying taco shells or
  • patting dry raw chicken or
  • wiping off paint brushes.
It's been so long since I purchased paper napkins and paper towels that I don't remember the prices, but next time I go to the store I will check and try to estimate how much money I haven't spent on these items in the year 2012.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Goals for the week

This week I'll try to:
  • Sow some parsley and cilantro seeds outside.
  • Find and prepare two new recipes that rely on shelf-stable ingredients, or that can be altered to use them in place of fresh ingredients.
  • Make a final decision and send in Hershey's order form/check.
  • Paint the closet in James's bedroom.
  • Sand the windowsill and closet shelves in James's room.
  • Work on yellow/gray/white quilt top.
  • Organize small box of photos into scrapbook-able piles.
  • Sort through scrapbook supplies.
  • Study grocery sale ads and begin a "best price" book.
  • Buy a book to read at the used book store.
  • Study spanish vocab with Jake.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Simplify first, then organize

It's simplify, then organize. Otherwise you're just organizing your clutter. And organized clutter is still clutter. Clutter's natural state is disorganized. It's one of the laws of nature, isn't it? Even well-organized clutter reverts back to chaos in an alarmingly short amount of time. Purge your possesions of everything that is not beautiful to you, or useful to your real life (the life you actually have, not your fantasy life or the life you think you ought to be having), then organize whatever is left. You will likely find that if you do it in this order you already have enough baskets and bins to organize your stuff.

Simplify first, then organize.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Some things are just never going to happen

Usually by the end of summer my feet are suntanned. It's from going outside in my flip flops.

I have a funny flip-flop tan line.

But you know what? Instead of looking golden-brown or bronzed or sun-kissed or any of the other "pretty" adjectives people use to describe a suntan, my feet just look dirty.

I don't look good in a suntan. Which is just as well since I hate being outside in the blazing hot sunshine and suntans are very bad for you.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Oh, What Do You Do

in the Summertime? (Children's Songbook, #245)

1. Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you fish in a stream, or lazily dream on the banks as the clouds go by?
Is that what you do? So do I!

2. Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you swim in a pool, to keep yourself cool, or swing in a tree up high?
Is that what you do? So do I!

3. Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you march in parades, or drink lemonades, or count all the stars in the sky?
Is that what you do? So do I!

(Words and music: Dorothy S. Andersen, b. 1927)

I woke up this morning with this song running through my head. It's got a very catchy tune, and lends itself well to making up words as you go along.

One of the primary choristers I worked with in the past invented several extra verses and taught them to the primary children. It was fun, and it's a nice memory.

And yes, it's still summer here. We've had a few moments where we could tell that fall is on the way, but not too many.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ham and potato casserole

I took dinner to a friend's family yesterday. Cheesy ham and potato casserole. It was so delicious! I don't want to forget to make this again so I'm adding the recipe and my notes to my blog:
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic (One clove would probably be sufficient. This was super garlicky but very tasty with two cloves)
4 tablespoons butter
Melt butter over medium heat in a big frying pan. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Try to not burn the garlic. Add:
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Cook and stir for a couple of minutes until flour and butter have formed a paste. Whisk in:
2 1/2 cups milk (I used 2 cups milk and 1/2 cup chicken stock because I was 1/2 cup short on the milk.)
Stir constantly over medium/low heat until sauce is thickened. Add:
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese ( I used two slices of deli Swiss because that is what I had. I didn't chop it up - just laid it in the pan on top of the sauce. It melted in just fine.)
4 oz. Velveeta (I know it's fake cheese. It was an experiment.*)
Stir over very low heat until cheese is melted. Pour sauce over:
8 cups thinly sliced potatoes (I used Yukon Gold potatoes. I used a bunch of the little bitty ones that I had in my potato basket. I eyeballed the final measurement and may have used a few too many - my pans were very full.)
2 cups chopped/cubed ham
Pour into a greased casserole or baking dish and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes, then remove foil and bake for an additional 45-50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. (I used two 8 x 8 foil pans. It filled them a bit too full and they bubbled over while baking. Luckily I had them on a baking sheet in the oven but it was a hassle to scrub clean. Next time I should line the baking sheet with foil.)
I made this early in the morning and stored them in the fridge until it was time to bake them. I don't know about freezing raw potatoes but I will check into that and try some experiments to see if the quality is intact after freezing/thawing/baking. It would be really nice to have this ready to go in the freezer.
* I thought if I added some Velveeta it would make a smoother, creamier sauce. Whenever I bake something homemade with a milk sauce it curdles/separates. Homemade rice pudding, macaroni and cheese, ham and potato casserole, whatever. It doesn't affect the taste at all, it just doesn't look all that appetizing. Adding Velveeta to the recipe didn't work - the cheese sauce separated into a buttery fluid and small clumps of cheesy, white-ish particles just like all my baked white sauce dishes do. It did taste awesome still.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Using it up

I was going through the refrigerator earlier this week, trying to see what we have and if I could make it through the week without doing a big shopping trip. (I certainly can. Almost always.)

I found the following things that needed to be used up sooner rather than later:
  • two or three cups of cooked rice
  • half a cabbage
  • a green bell pepper.
I realized that I was about two-thirds of the way there to bieroc. I knew there was ground beef and sausage in the freezer, but I didn't have any bread dough, and didn't really want to make any that day. Making bieroc takes a whole afternoon and creates a huge mess - little bits of finely chopped cabbage and other vegetables and flour and dough all over the counter, (and let's be honest here, all over the floor, too) and dirty frying pans, big mixing bowls, cutting boards, knives, etc. You can probably get the picture.

I wasn't in the mood for all that, but I didn't want the food I had on hand to go to waste. That's when I had the brilliant idea to make only the filling which would produce only half the mess and put it in the freezer to be made into bieroc later.

So I did. I turned out three quarts of bieroc filling and stashed them in the freezer, all ready to be thawed and made into bieroc for dinner when I'm making bread or rolls one day this fall.

Freezer cooking is awesome.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I've been working on a little Christmas quilt project that was supposed to be quick and easy. It has been easy but not all that quick.
I found a couple of charm packs that I liked, a pattern that seemed simple enough, and got going. It takes a long time to cut your fabric up into little bits and then sew all those little bits back together. This particular pattern called for laying out all the charm squares and rearranging them until I had it looking like I wanted it to and then sewing sashing and squares first one way into rows, then sewing sashing onto all the rows and then sewing rows together.
Which is great and seemed like an easy way to do it. Except I wanted the quilt to be bigger than the 36 x 48 that the pattern yielded, so there was extra time spent figuring and cutting and laying out. And I had to leave it all laid out like I wanted it to end up so that I would remember what I am doing because the squares are sewn together on point. Which means that every row has a different number of squares, the side-setting triangles are oriented differently from one end of a row to the other, and all the while you have to maintain the placement of your squares. I couldn't figure out an easy way to make that into a neat and tidy little stack that would sit quietly next to my sewing machine and still have it come out okay - it had to remain all laid out on the floor. I'm glad I have no furniture in my front room so that there is plenty of space to lay out things like quilt blocks and not have to move them again for days and days.
I'm getting there. The top is nearly finished. I really like it, but I need to figure out a way to remember that it - whatever IT is - always takes longer than I think it will.
It could be the title of my life-story: It Always Took Her Longer Than She Thought It Would.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Some days are like that...

It's been a hard day. I feel like I've been judged and then put in the cosmic naughty corner. I'm trying to do that whole "Keep Calm and Carry On" thing but some days it's tough to do. For me, anyway. I saw this scripture online today, and it made me feel better. More hopeful, more accepted, more loved: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.

I need a Savior who isn't meting out condemnation and judgment. I need a Savior who loves me regardless of my mistakes, who tries to understand what I'm going through and will stand by me, and who offers peace and rest in a tumultuous world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Isn't it amazing how stuff makes itself into a mess? Last week I went on a search and rescue mission to the very back of a kitchen cupboard looking for my Food Saver. I knew it was back there, and it was, but on my way there I found ever so many things:
  • A little slip of paper with my neighbor's email address on it. She gave it to me months ago and I was supposed to send her a link to the Bountiful Baskets website. But I set it on the counter by the phone and then it disappeared. Apparently it went to the very back and bottom of a cabinet that is across the kitchen from the counter by the phone.
  • A post-it pad.
  • An opened package of "purse packs" of Kleenex. I knew I had them...somewhere.
  • A small piece of adhesive plastic that you would use to repair a hole in a pool floaty. Which thing I don't happen to currently possess, and therefore makes me wonder how many years has it been since I really cleaned out this cabinet?
  • A padlock with its prongs (prongs? What is the right word?*) threaded through a pair of child's safety scissors. This object could be the focus of a whole post all by itself. It raises some questions like "Who?" and "Why?"**, and  "Where is the key to this padlock?" and "Are you sure this is the kind of 'safe' we're worried about with this particular pair of scissors?". Without a key these scissors are so safe they are virtually worthless.
  • The operating instructions to my new handheld mixer. The mixer is in another cabinet, and the directions to all my other things like that are upstairs in a file drawer.
  • Some other similarly random flotsam.
All that belongs in the cabinet where I found all this stuff is some bottles of water and a variety of small kitchen appliances like my Food Saver that I don't use very often. Sometimes I think there must be mini tornadoes whirling through my kitchen while I'm sleeping at night. I have no other plausible explanation for how these messes happen.

*I googled "parts of a padlock". Those prongs are called the shackle. I find that, in this instance in particular, to be both fitting and hilarious.
**I suspect the answer to "Why?" is "My children are bored and looking for trouble because they don't have enough chores to do". Which is a totally solvable problem.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Baby pink

I knitted this sweet little baby sweater last year for an unknown girl. More precisely, she was unknown when I knitted it. I've met Molly now. She's a sweet little bunny, just a month or two old, and the sweater will fit her when she's grown a bit more.

Just in time for winter, or what passes for winter around here.

I had fun with this pattern. I had no idea how to make the wavy design when I started but then it turned out that I didn't need to know - the waves just happened as I followed the directions. The pattern is simply called "Sacque to Knit" and the yarn is Bernat Baby Sport pink.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Words of a prophet

" Our Heavenly Father rejoices for those who keep His commandments...I testify to you that He lives and that He awaits our triumphant return." ~Thomas S. Monson

Friday, September 7, 2012

Grammie, I need you!

When our sweet little Buttercup moved in with us last year it became my job to put her to bed at night while her mama worked in another city, and then even after her mama moved in with us too, there were many nights that I still got the chance to do the bedtime routine. Over the course of a few months we developed our own special rituals that helped her to relax and fall asleep: pats, songs, and chit-chat.
On many of the nights that Buttercup's mama was home to put her to bed, she wasn't ready to go to sleep until I had come into her room and sung a few songs with her. She would stand at her bedroom door and call out, "Grammie! I need you!" and then insist that I come into her room to sing. Buttercup likes to hear three songs before she goes to sleep at night, but sometimes, if it's been a hard day, it takes more than three songs.
One song in particular that I sing to her quite often is I Often Go Walking (Children's Songbook, # 202). I learned this song in Church when I was a little girl. It goes like this:
  • I often go walking in meadows of clover,
  • And I gather armfuls of blossoms of blue,
  • I gather the blossoms the whole meadow over,
  • Dear mother, all flowers remind me of you.
When singing the song to my sweet Buttercup I changed the last line to be "Dear Avery, all flowers remind me of you". Of course I did that. That's one of the things I do is to change the lyrics of songs I know to suit my situation or to be funnier or more personal. (I'm not as good at rearranging the notes, although I do try that sometimes too. And I'm not really all that musical.) Is that a weird thing to do? Do all people do this? I think this particular behavior falls in the same category as making up pet names or nicknames for people you love. I think it's a sign of a creative mind and I also think it's super fun. So please don't tell me it's weird.
Anyway, as Avery got older she started learning the songs and singing them along with me, and trust me when I tell you that there isn't much in the world that is sweeter or more darling that hearing your 2 year-old granddaughter sing songs that you've taught her. And she takes after me in that she changes the words of songs to meet her own needs. Here's how Buttercup sings the song:
  • I often go walking in meadows of clover,
  • And I gather armfuls of blossoms of blue,
  • I gather the blossoms the whole meadow over,
  • Dear Avery, all flowers remind me of me.
This kid just slays me.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

On Top of Old Smoky

Did you know that the real version of "On Top of Old Smoky" is NOT about cheese-covered meatballs?

Here are the results of all that cooking I did the other day, stashed in the freezer to use later this fall when I need or want to make dinner in a hurry:
  1. Four lbs. meatballs
  2. Four chicken/long grain & wild rice casseroles (The kind with celery and water chestnuts. One of the few casseroles I can stand to eat.)
  3. Three quarts cooked white rice
  4. Two quarts cooked black beans
  5. Three meatloafs (meatloaves?)
  6. Two quarts homemade chicken stock
I used up what was left of the chicken after composing the casseroles to top a barbecue chicken pizza that we ate for dinner last night. I still have some long grain & wild rice left over too - I'm thinking this but changed up to suit my tastes - I'll add some chopped up celery and onion, and use 1% milk instead of the heavy cream.
The awesome part of this whole thing is that the only additional things I purchased to make all this food was a pound of ground pork for the meatloaves and two cans of sliced water chestnuts for the casseroles. The ground pork wasn't absolutely necessary because I had plenty of ground beef in the freezer but adding the ground pork was something new I wanted to try. For the most part I used my food storage to make these meals. I think that water chestnuts is something I will begin buying on sale and keeping in my food storage; I really like their mild-flavor and crunch.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Am I a minimalist?

Or, What Do I Really Want and How Much Will Ever Be Enough?

I've been reading lots of blogs and articles written by and for minimalists, and trying to figure out some stuff about myself. I am fortunate enough to be born into a country where I can be, do, and to a large extent have (where "have" means obtain or afford or both) pretty much whatever I want.

I don't know if I'm a real minimalist. I think I have a natural, in-born tendency to say enough is enough ( I would be more likely to phrase it as "Why do we have to have so much crap in this house?"), but I don't feel like I have to be able to fit every last one of my belongings into a backpack or the trunk of my car, or sleep on a mattress on the floor and have bare, white walls, or have only 57 or some other arbitrary number of items that I possess in the whole world. If you have to live by those requirements to be a real minimalist, then I'm not one.

I do have my own evolving list of "rules to live by" about what I have and what I do, and how that reflects who I am and who I am striving to become, and here is a list of some of them in no particular order of importance:
  • I want What I Want to be firmly and squarely contained in the category of What I Need. Mindlessly and thoughtlessly buying, acquiring, and consuming isn't good for me. If I need something I'll get it, but filling up a shopping cart with stuff that I don't need, one little impulse at a time, in order to ease feelings of boredom or dissatisfaction isn't going to make me happy no matter how awesome the stuff is.
  • Good enough is fine for me. I don't have to be constantly searching out and trying to acquire the best of anything. Trying to compete with other people's possessions or comply with their expectations or recommendations is too exhausting and doesn't make me happy.
  • My home is not for show. It is where people live, and although people do need things, the stuff in my house has to be for the keeping of the people, not the other way around. Homes are containers for people and although homes also contain people's stuff, the actual people shouldn't have to be shoe-horned into whatever space is left after the stuff is moved in.
  • A certain degree of sparseness and bareness do give feelings of calmness and serenity for me. My eyes have be able to find a place to rest, and crowded, cluttered surfaces, closets, and floors make me feel claustrophobic and anxious and overwrought.
  • I want my home to be comfortable. I want my family and friends to feel like they can wear their shoes, or not, whichever is more comfortable for them. If you want to cook something, or take a nap, or make a craft, or watch a movie, or read a book, or play a game, you can do that in my house. We're set up for that.
  • When we're ready to do any of those things, I can find what we need. There is sufficient, but not so much that I spend all my available time digging through closets and drawers for supplies and then have a giant mess created by the search that must now be cleaned up.
  • Abundance and excess aren't the same thing.
  • Spending money to solve problems or fill needs when creativity and ingenuity would suffice is kind of lazy.
  • My good Mr. Dub shouldn't have to spend decades of his life working to provide for me things that I don't need and don't, in reality and all honesty, even actually want. He deserves more respect than that.
Decluttering is a big part of a minimalist's life. It's a big part of my life, too. I was reading an article about keeping like things together, and how that makes it possible to make decisions about how much is enough for you. The example that was used is that if you relocate all your pens and pencils into one place in your house, only then will you be able to see that you have 63 ballpoint pens, and are you the kind of person who needs 63 pens?

I immediately thought of my pencil cup. I do have all my pens in the house contained into, well, two pencil cups, (one upstairs on the desk and one downstairs by the phone. A real minimalist would have only one pencil cup and would run up and down the stairs everytime she wanted to write something. An extremely real minimalist might not have a pencil cup at all, but own only one pen.) and they were both too full. At least once per day but usually many times per day I was struggling to jam a pen back into the pencil cup. Why have I mindlessly fought with my pencil cup every single day without ever realizing even one time that I could and should do something about it? It's ridiculous! And that is a big part of what this post is meant to be about: I want to live and breathe and work and do the things that make me myself in my house without a struggle at every turn.

So I decluttered my pencil cup. I picked out a few pens, a couple of pencils, and a pair of scissors, and now there is plenty of room in the cup to take one out and put it back without any sort of hassle at all. The extra pens went into the school/office supply shoebox that lives on a shelf in a kitchen cupboard. I know we will need them eventually - I mean, pens do run out of ink- but I don't have to have to deal with them while I'm waiting to need them.

While I was thinking about the pencil cup, I washed out an empty green bean can (we had green beans with our dinner last night) and spray-painted it. Then I added some cherry blossom stickers that I had on hand. No overwhelming mess was created while searching for spray paint or stickers. It's not the best/prettiest/most awesome pencil cup in the whole world, but it keeps my pencils contained on the counter by my phone. And when I'm tired of looking at it, I'll throw it out. It's a green bean can with some stickers on it, for goodness sake, and we already ate the beans.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Buttercup Baby

There is nothing about this girl that I do not adore.

When my kids were babies/toddlers they didn't like having their hair washed in the bath. They cried and wailed and flailed. It's like they thought I had waited, patiently biding my time, until I found the perfect opportunity to do them in. To bump them off. To silently and cleverly drown them under the pretence of washing their hair. It's like they thought that it was only by the strength of their will to survive that they had ever lived through any bathtime. They knew that each time they were bathed they risked death by such deadly weapons as a cup full of tepid water and a bottle of no-more-tears baby shampoo.

I tried to comfort them and I respected their fear. I gave them a washcloth to hold over their eyes. I had them lay back in shallow water while I poured it carefully along their hairline. I used a cup and held my hands just so to block so much as a drop of water from flowing over their faces. I had them look up to the ceiling so that water could only flow down and back and never so much as dampen their eyebrows.

None of it ever worked. Eventually they grew up (despite all my murderous inclinations) and learned how to wash their own hair.

But this little grandbaby o' mine, whenever I bathe her, will lay back in the water while I wash her hair. She will look up into my face with an oh-so-slightly concerned expression and ask, "You'll take good care of your Buttercup baby?", and so reassured will relax and confidently enjoy the experience.

No more fears, and truly no more tears.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Why do they call you "Amy Do"?

When I was in high school my mother was in college. This happened to my kids too, except that in my kids' case I did not march into their high school health class and student-teach for 12 weeks. Maybe it was only 8 weeks. I don't remember exactly, but hey, it was a super long time ago.

I remember that she taught a unit on stress. I remember one day she asked my class what caused them stress, and the other kids started calling out things and my mom would repeat what they said, and maybe she was writing it all down on the board. I remember that one of the popular girls replied, "my mom ragging on me" caused her stress, and my mom said, "mothers nagging", which is not what that girl said, and proved to my adolescent self how particularly out of touch my mom truly was.

The other kids could tell my mom was pretty cool and so they failed to see what was so catastrophic about my situation. Of course they couldn't see it; their moms were not in our school. Even after thoroughly searching my memory I cannot come up with a single instance in which my mom embarrassed me in front of my classmates in our health class. I don't remember her ever calling me any nicknames in school, and I've had many, including "Amy Do".

She is a pretty cool mom, after all.

My Teacher Calls Me Sweetie Cakes
My teacher calls me sweetie cakes.
My classmates think it's funny
to hear her call me angel face
or pookie bear or honey.

She calls me precious baby doll.
She calls me pumpkin pie
or doodle bug or honey bunch
or darling butterfly.

My class is so embarrassing
I need to find another;
just any class at all in which
the teacher's not my mother.

--Kenn Nesbitt

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hitting a curve ball

Baseball pitchers throw curve balls because they are hard to hit - the ball "drops" just before it gets to the batter and the batter is robbed of that satisfying "crack" which sends the ball sailing out into the stands. Instead there is a mightily embarrasing "swish". Sometimes the batter even loses his balance a little bit after swinging. It's funny. Watch.

The secret to hitting a curve ball is to wait to swing until you see the curve. Hank Aaron said, "I can wait on the curve ball because I know the pitcher can't throw the fastball by me."

I was thrown a curve ball today. I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen, and it didn't happen that way at all. It is all okay in the end, and I didn't lose my balance in any embarrassing way. I have been given an opportunity to forge new friendships, learn new skills, love and serve new people, and conquer new challenges. Instead of working in the Relief Society, I will be the Copperfield Ward primary secretary for the next while.

I learned a valuable lesson today. Wait. Wait for all the facts before you have everything all cut and dried inside your head. And while you're waiting, hush. Just wait and see, and for pete's sake, hush.

I was listening to my Hymns cd in the car on the way home from the church today, and these words especially struck deep into my heart:

In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.
Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
(How Firm a Foundation, Hymns, #85, verses 2 and 3, bold italics added by me.)
It will be good. I'm going to hit this one out of the park.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

In the work basket

This is what I'm working on right now. It's scrappy in the sense that I'm using up (still!) leftover bits and balls of yarn that I inherited from my grandmother 4 years ago. I am getting somewhat close to the end of her stash and I'll have to buy yarn in similar shades to finish this, but I think the colors work together beautifully. It looks tropical and oceanic and reminds me of something like this: